Brewers visit Cardinals with hopes of extending road trip

(TSX / STATS) -- ST. LOUIS -- Craig Counsell had a simple instruction for his Milwaukee Brewers players as they left for St. Louis and the start of the final series of the regular season.

"I told the guys last night to pack for 10 days," the Brewers manager said Thursday. "That's what we have to plan on. Pack for 10 days, or you can pack for three and run out of clothes. I don't care, but we are going to be gone for 10 days."

Counsell might be a little more optimistic of that occurring than the odds would indicate, but at least as the Brewers open their three-game series against the Cardinals on Friday night, they still have a chance of catching the Colorado Rockies for the second National League wild-card spot.

The Brewers' 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday left Milwaukee two games behind the Rockies with three to play. The Rockies, who had the day off Thursday, host the Los Angeles Dodgers for three games over the weekend.

Either the Rockies or the Brewers will advance to the NL wild-card game, which will be played Wednesday against the Diamondbacks in Arizona.

Counsell has instilled a belief in his players that they are not out of the race, even if the odds might be stacked against them.

"You don't get these opportunities every year in your career as a player," Counsell said. "You think you might. When you get one your first year you think you are going to have it every year. You don't get these every year. You value them.

"Really, we're in no different of a spot than where we've been all season. We're in the same spot. I feel like we've thrived in this position all year, so why not now?"

The Cardinals had hoped to still be trying to catch the Rockies as well, but their 11th-inning, 2-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night eliminated them from the race. It is the second consecutive year St. Louis will be spending October at home.

Friday night will be the first time since 2010 that the Cardinals play a game after being eliminated from the playoffs.

"I always stand up here and tell you I think we're just a few games or something happening away from having things work out and we can still achieve what we want to achieve," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "This is the first time I have to stand up here and say that's not going to happen.

"We fell short of what we wanted to do."

The Brewers will start Chase Anderson on Friday against the Cardinals' John Gant, making only his second start since he was recalled from Triple-A Memphis at the start of September.

Anderson (11-4, 2.81 ERA) is 1-0 with a 3.78 ERA in three starts against St. Louis this year. In eight career starts vs. the Cardinals, he is 1-2 with a 2.95 ERA.

Gant (0-0, 3.65 ERA) was lifted after three innings in his start Sunday in Pittsburgh, having allowed one run on three hits. Gant, who also started seven games for the Atlanta Braves last year, will be making his first career appearance against the Brewers.

Counsell has not tried to figure out the exact combination of Milwaukee wins and Colorado losses it will take for his team to win the last playoff spot. He is just hoping whatever it takes happens.

"That's the easiest way to do it," he said. "We're baseball players. We're not math guys."


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