ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals are scuffling to the postseason, going 1-6 after clinching the NL Central. It's hardly a crisis of confidence.
"Yeah, we made some mistakes this whole series," Albert Pujols said after the Milwaukee Brewers completed a three-game sweep with a 9-7, 10-inning victory on Sunday. "Some errors here and there, but listen, this is part of the game.
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"I'll think we'll be all right."Players noted that the Cardinals weren't alone in taking a collective sigh of relief after clinching. They open the playoffs Wednesday at the Los Angeles Dodgers."Every team is solid, and it seems like every team is kind of struggling coming into the postseason," shortstop Brendan Ryan said. "I know it's two separate things, and everybody's going to be at their best."Prince Fielder homered twice and Jody Gerut's two-out infield hit drove in the go-ahead run for Milwaukee, which swept the Cardinals on the road for the second time this season. The Brewers finished 80-82 hours after Ken Macha learned he'd be back for a second season."It's cool," Fielder said. "We have a manager we know."The Cardinals failed to make it a happy 65th birthday for manager Tony La Russa, who joked before the game that he was looking forward to getting the senior citizen discount at the movie theater."We just got swept, you can't deny that," La Russa said. "We have a couple of days to get ready, and we'll play well on Wednesday."Fielder ended with 46 homers, one behind Albert Pujols for the major league lead, and drove in three runs to tie Ryan Howard for the majors' RBI title at 141. He lost a chance to take the RBI title outright when he drew an intentional walk to load the bases in the 10th.Mid-game replacement David Freese had two hits and three RBIs for St. Louis, including a two-run bloop single off Chris Smith (1-0) to tie it at 6 in the eighth. Freese made his professional debut at catcher in the 10th after the Cardinals pinch-hit for two catchers. Yadier Molina got a day off to rest a sore knee.Fielder's second homer of the game came in the ninth came off Todd Wellemeyer (7-10). The Cardinals forced extra innings against Trevor Hoffman (3-2) when Julio Lugo beat the relay on a potential game-ending double-play ball with the bases loaded.Ryan Braun added an RBI single in the 10th for the Brewers, finishing with an NL-high 203 hits, and John Axford finished for his first career save.Pujols won his first NL homer title and St. Louis' first since Mark McGwire hit 65 in 1999 despite going without a long ball in his last 79 at-bats since Sept. 9. He led the majors in slugging percentage for the third straight season, finished second to Hanley Ramirez with a .327 average, and was third with 135 RBIs.Pujols said he could have hit 50 homers but not if he wanted to bat .330, too."Believe me, I can go out there and try to hit the ball out of the park, but that's being selfish," Pujols said. "I want to help my team to win and that's by driving the ball, getting on base and driving it to the gap."He got a prolonged standing ovation after setting a major league assists record at first base with 185, which reflects his range at the position.Joel Pineiro, who'll start Game 3 of the division series Saturday in St. Louis, allowed three earned runs in five innings. He was 1/3 with a 4.75 ERA in his last five starts. Though he allowed 11 homers on the season he gave up four long balls in the last two games.Jeff Suppan got a ceremonial 30th start for the Brewers, giving up a run on two hits in two innings. He's made 30 starts in 11 straight seasons, tied with Livan Hernandez for the longest streak among active players.
Jeff Tweedy of alternative rock band Wilco threw out the first pitch. Tweedy grew up in suburban Belleville, Ill. ... Casey McGehee got an infield hit in the first to raise his average to .301, then was taken out before his next at-bat. ... The Brewers, Braves and Phillies are the only teams with winning records at 4-year-old Busch. ... Fielder had five multihomer games this season, 17 for his career. ... The Cardinals finished with attendance of more than 3.3 million after their 35th sellout. ... Hoffman blew four saves in 42 chances, the last two against the Cardinals. ... Freese last played catcher at South Alabama in 2006. ... Pineiro led the majors with only 1.14 walks per 9 innings.