ST. LOUIS — It took just minutes for plans to change.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ hopes of earning a postseason berth as the National League’s second wild card took a fatal blow Saturday when the St. Louis Cardinals used three eighth-inning runs to complete a rally from a 6-0 deficit and prevail 7-6.
The result will affect the texture of Sunday’s regular season finale in Busch Stadium, which is devoid of meaning both ways aside from the reaching of personal goals and contractual obligation.
“We’ll certainly play some different guys,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said.
That means the Brewers (85-76) could rest mainstays such as Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw and Domingo Santana. First baseman Eric Thames, who fouled a pitch off his foot in the eighth inning and left the game before the bottom of the inning, is unlikely to play.
As of Saturday night, Milwaukee was still planning to pitch Zach Davies (17-9, 3.90 ERA), although Counsell hinted that could change before the 2:15 p.m. first pitch. Davies has been tough on St. Louis for most of his six career outings, going 2-0 with a 3.41 ERA.
The right-hander is coming off a no-decision in his last start Tuesday night, lasting only four innings in a 7-6 victory over Cincinnati. Davies gave up three runs and six hits, walking two and fanning none. His 33 starts and 191 1/3 innings are career highs, as are the wins.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals have lifted ace right-hander Carlos Martinez from his scheduled start in favor of rookie Jack Flaherty (0-1, 6.06 ERA). Martinez ended the year 12-11 with a 3.64 ERA, setting career highs for innings (205) and strikeouts (217).
Flaherty will make his fifth big league start in this one. His last outing was a 1-2-3 inning Monday night during a 10-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Flaherty, considered one of the organization’s top prospects, will face the Brewers for the first time.
Both lineups could have a Triple-A flavor to them. St. Louis has sprinkled the field liberally this series with products of its top farm affiliate in Memphis. One of them, center fielder Harrison Bader, shrugged off a three-strikeout performance by delivering the game-winning hit in the eighth inning Saturday.
“Every time you go to the plate, it’s a clean slate,” Bader said. “In the end, the result was good. You just keep fighting until the end.”
It was only the second win in eight games for the Cardinals (83-78), who saw their wild-card hopes conclude Thursday night against the Chicago Cubs. It will be the second straight year that they miss the postseason, but they at least got to take a division rival down with them.
Manager Mike Matheny was encouraged that his team didn’t fold after falling behind 6-0 in the third inning against an opponent with so much on the line.
“When you’re down six runs like that and show that kind of life where we are in the season, it’s a great win,” he said. “The young guys just continued to play the game.”