ST. LOUIS—Fortunately for the Milwaukee Brewers, they didn't slip up.
The Brewers clinched their first playoff spot since 2011 by ensuring at least a spot in the NL wild-card game, helped last night when a rookie St. Louis pinch-runner suddenly fell on his way to the plate in a 2-1 win over the contending Cardinals.
“I saw him go down and luckily we were able to put a tag on him and get him out,” Brewers' reliever Josh Hader said.
“I've never seen that before but it was definitely good on our side.”
The Brewers (92-67) remained a half-game behind the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs.
Milwaukee's win also sealed a post-season berth for the Cubs, who topped the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-6 in 10 innings.
Milwaukee began the day 3.5 games ahead of Colorado for the top wild-card slot.
St. Louis (87-71) entered a half-game behind the Rockies for the final wild-card berth.
The Cardinals missed a big chance to tie it in the eighth inning. Matt Carpenter drew a two-out walk and was lifted for pinch-runner Adolis Garcia.
Jose Martinez then hit a slow roller to third baseman Mike Moustakas, who threw wildly to first.
Garcia was waved home but slipped rounding third base and fell halfway to the plate. He got to his feet and had no chance, easily tagged out after second baseman Hernan Perez made a strong throw.
“The kid's giving you everything he's got, it's just unfortunate he fell," Cardinals' manager Mike Shildt said. ”It's one of those things that happened.
“Clearly, it would've tied the game but it wasn't for lack of effort,” he stressed.
“Things happen and he was giving everything he had.”
Milwaukee turned that break into a three-game sweep at Busch Stadium. And while the Brewers enjoyed an enthusiastic celebration in their clubhouse, the prospect of catching the Cubs still hung in the air.
“We like our chances but obviously winning the division would be huge,” outfielder Ryan Braun said.
"The wild-card game, no matter how good you are, it is always somewhat of a coin flip.
“So we have to take care of business," he stressed. "We have to continue to win games and continue to play the way we've played to this point, and hopefully find a way to win the division.”
Milwaukee advanced to the NL Championship Series in 2011 before being eliminated in six games by the eventual World Series champion Cardinals.
“When you've got games left still and you've got something to play for, there's stuff ahead of us, but you do this to enjoy what you've accomplished,” Brewers' manager Craig Counsell said.
“We know that we've made the playoffs, we have a chance to play in the playoffs, and we have three big games left.”
Milwaukee now returns to Miller Park to take on the lowly Detroit Tigers in the three-game series starting tomorrow to end the regular season.
The Cardinals travel to face the Cubs for the three-game set.
Elsewhere in the NL, Washington beat Miami 9-3 (seven innings), New York blanked Atlanta 3-0, Colorado routed Philadelphia 14-0, Arizona dumped L.A. 7-2, and San Diego edged San Francisco 3-2.