The slumping Milwaukee Brewers will turn to left-hander Eric Lauer with hopes of clinching the NL Central title at home when they open a three-game series Friday against the New York Mets.
Lauer (6-5, 3.03 ERA) will be opposed by rookie right-hander Tylor Megill (3-5, 4.57). Milwaukee’s magic number for clinching the division title remains at three after being swept in four home games by St. Louis.
Paul Goldschmidt homered twice and the Cardinals rallied from five runs down for an 8-5 victory Thursday to extend their winning streak to 12 games. Tyrone Taylor had a grand slam and a solo homer to give the Brewers a 5-0 lead, which the bullpen failed to hold.
Milwaukee, which has lost seven of its last nine, wasted a quality start by Adrian Houser, who allowed one run on five hits in six innings.
“This is a game that we’ve won this year; unfortunately, it didn’t play out that way today,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s on us to win games. We have to take it. We’re trying to win games; we’re not doing it.”
Without a late-inning lead, All-Star closer Josh Hader — who has saved 33 of 34 chances — did not pitch in the St. Louis series. Eighth-inning setup specialist Devin Williams (8-2, 2.55) is nursing a calf injury sustained while running in the outfield earlier this week and was not available, Counsell said.
Milwaukee (91-62), which has secured a playoff spot but has lost five straight, leads St. Louis (83-69) by 7 1/2 games. The Cardinals, who are 4 1/2 games ahead of the Philadelphia Phillies for the second wild card, host the Brewers for three games at the end of September.
The Brewers led the Central by 14 games on Sept. 12, but outfielder Lorenzo Cain said he didn’t think the team is taking the division race for granted.
“As a whole, I don’t think anyone’s gotten complacent or anything,” Cain said. “We know what we need to do. We understand we’re in the playoffs regardless, but our main goal is to win the division. We’ve still got a few more games to do that. We’ve still got a find a way to go out there and get that done.”
The Mets (73-79) have lost eight of 10 and are 7 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Atlanta and 10 games out of the second wild card, with four teams ahead of them.
“Mathematically we’re alive and it’s tough. It’s a very tough spot, especially going to play the Brewers who are a very tough team,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said Wednesday after a 12-5 loss at Boston. “We’ve still got to grind and keep playing hard.”
The series against the Mets wraps up the Brewers’ 10-game final homestand. Milwaukee finishes on the road with three at St. Louis and three against the Dodgers.
Lauer is certainly hoping for better things than his first two starts against the Mets, which came in 2018 and 2019. He pitched a combined 6 1/3 innings in those starts, allowing 10 earned runs for an ERA of 14.21.
Lauer is 5-2 with a 1.83 ERA in his last 13 games, including 12 starts. In his last outing, Lauer left with a 2-1 lead after 5 1/3 innings, but did not get a decision as the Cubs rallied for 6-4 victory.
Megill is coming off his shortest start of the season; he gave up five runs in the first inning and allowing six runs overall on nine hits in three innings during an 11-4 home loss to St. Louis.
Megill made one start this season against Milwaukee, allowing one run on two hits in five innings, but did not get the decision in a 4-2 victory at home in early July when the Mets took two of three.
He is 2-3 with a 6.31 ERA in his last seven starts, allowing nine home runs in 35 2/3 innings.
–Field Level Media