Kelly, Cards battle Brewers on the verge of a playoff spot

Joe Kelly wasn't even a fixture in St. Louis' rotation until the beginning of July, but the right-hander has a chance to pitch the Cardinals to a playoff spot on Sunday night.

He gets the call for the finale of a three-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers.

St. Louis has a magic number of just one to lock up a third straight playoff berth. The Cards' 7-2 victory on Saturday kept them two games up on Pittsburgh for first place in the NL Central and three ahead of Cincinnati.

With Washington 4 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot, the Cardinals can officially lock up a playoff spot with a victory tonight or one Washington loss during its day/night doubleheader today with Miami.

That means the Cards could already be in the postseason before Kelly takes the hill, but that shouldn't alter his approach at all. He is 9-4 with a 2.74 earned run average in 35 games this year, including 14 starts. Kelly won eight decisions in a row before a loss to Milwaukee on Sept. 12, allowing three earned runs over five innings.

Kelly fell to 1-3 with a 4.91 ERA lifetime versus the Brewers and bounced back to beat Colorado on Tuesday. The 25-year-old shook off a sore left calf to throw five scoreless innings of three-hit ball with two walks.

The Cards kept pace in the division with their fourth victory in five games on Saturday and 11th in their last 15. They have not won the NL Central since 2009, but did capture a World Series title as a wild card club in 2011.

Matt Adams hit a two-run homer in the first inning last night and the Cards added on with five runs in the eighth inning. Matt Carpenter hit his 54th double of the season in the fifth inning, breaking Stan Musial's single-season Cardinals record for the most doubles by a left-handed batter.

Joe Medwick owns the overall single-season club mark with 64 doubles in 1936

Lance Lynn picked up his first win since Aug. 4 after limiting the Brewers to a run on four hits in 6 1/3 innings. Lynn, who was 0-5 in his previous eight outings, struck out seven and walked four.

"Once he found that groove, and you could tell found that four-seamer, it was a completely different game," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Adams' homer was one of four hits given up by Yovani Gallardo. The Milwaukee right-hander walked two and matched Lynn with seven punchouts in seven innings of work to take the loss.

"He hits mistakes," Gallardo said of Adams' homer.

Milwaukee has dropped three straight games and fell to 4-14 versus St. Louis this season. The Brewers have lost eight of nine at home this year in the series.

Wily Peralta will try to avoid the sweep and is 10-15 with a 4.34 ERA in 31 starts this season.

The 24-year-old righty has won two of this last three starts, but did drop a decision to the Cardinals on Sept. 10. Peralta allowed three runs on two hits and four walks over 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven but still falling to 0-3 lifetime versus St. Louis with an 8.44 ERA in three games.

Peralta rebounded to beat the Chicago Cubs on Monday, charged with only one unearned run over six innings. He worked around five hits and two walks while striking out seven, and has fanned 26 over his last four outings.