After clinching a postseason berth, the Milwaukee Brewers will continue their push toward a division title on Sunday when they host the Chicago Cubs in the finale of their three-game series.
Brewers left-hander Eric Lauer (6-5, 3.10 ERA) will get the start on Sunday opposite Cubs right-hander Adrian Sampson (1-2, 2.53).
“We’re thrilled to know that we’re in the playoffs,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “I think everybody’s thrilled with that. But, I think the goal that we feel like we’ve earned the right to wait for is to win the division.”
The Brewers (91-57) clinched their fourth consecutive postseason appearance following a 6-4 victory over the Cubs (66-83) on Saturday night. Milwaukee leads the National League Central by 12 1/2 games over the St. Louis Cardinals (78-69).
The Brewers’ magic number to clinch the division is down to three. Milwaukee opens a four-game series at home against the Cardinals on Monday, then travels to St. Louis for a three-game series at the end of September.
Manny Pina snapped an eighth-inning tie with his second solo homer of the game on Saturday to help the Brewers to their 11th consecutive victory over the Cubs.
Pina, who also homered in the second inning, opened the eighth with his 12th homer to give Milwaukee a 5-4 lead. The Brewers added an insurance run when Pablo Reyes doubled and Kolten Wong singled sharply off the glove of first baseman Frank Schwindel.
Jace Peterson and Eduardo Escobar also had solo homers for Milwaukee.
“Obviously, there’s still a lot of games left that we have to keep our focus toward. I think there’ll be a little bit of a celebration (Saturday night), but I think the main celebration’s going to come when we clinch the division,” pitcher Corbin Burnes said.
Willson Contreras forged a tie with a solo homer off reliever Brad Boxberger in the seventh inning. But Devin Williams struck out the side in the eighth and Josh Hader finished for his 33rd save in 34 chances.
“I’m proud of this group and how they continue to fight,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “It’s evident night in and night out. They don’t give away at-bats. The at-bats are consistent. We made Corbin work really hard tonight and did a really nice job.”
Lauer is 5-2 with a 1.84 ERA over his past 12 games, including 11 starts. In his most recent start, he allowed one run on three hits in 5 1/3 innings in an 11-1 victory at Cleveland.
Lauer owns a 0-1 record with a 9.64 ERA in three career appearances (two starts) against the Cubs.
Sampson will be making his first career start versus the Brewers after facing them twice in relief in 2019 when he was with Texas.
In his most recent outing, Sampson earned his first major league victory since June 2019, allowing two runs on four hits in five innings in a 6-3 victory at Philadelphia.
The status of Lorenzo Cain for the series finale is in question after the Brewers center fielder crashed into the wall while making a leaping grab on a drive by Contreras. He left Saturday’s game in the fourth inning.
“As the game went on a little bit, his right groin just got sore,” Counsell said. “We’re not really sure how he did it. He honestly didn’t feel it initially when he made the catch, or when we were out there talking to him. It just kind of knocked the wind out of him a little bit. But, as a couple innings progressed, the groin became sore, so we got him out of there.”
–Field Level Media