MILWAUKEE — The Brewers headed to St. Louis still battling for the last available playoff spot.
Milwaukee closed within two games of Colorado for the National League's second wild card with three games left, rallying to beat the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 Thursday as Brett Phillips hit a go-ahead double in the sixth inning.
"This team is relentless. We keep fighting," Phillips said. "These are must-win games. Going to St. Louis for three, we owe it to each other to play hard and that's what we're going to do."
Milwaukee (84-75) closes the regular season at St. Louis, and the Rockies host the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Brewers are assured of their best record since finishing 96-66 in 2011, when they lost to the Cardinals in the NL Championship Series — Milwaukee's last playoff appearance.
"To take it to the last weekend, it means a lot," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "That we're jumping on a plane with three games left and with some possibilities is exciting and well-deserved for those guys."
After Cincinnati tied the score in the sixth on RBI singles by Scooter Gennett against starter Brent Suter and Jesse Winkler off Oliver Drake, Jared Hughes (5-3) entered with two on. The Reds loaded the bases when the reliever bobbled Jose Peraza's bunt for an error.
Hughes struck out Adam Duvall and got Stuart Turner to ground into a double play.
"That was my best shot — throwing a strike and getting a ball put in play," Hughes said. "It just so happened that it worked out that way."
Anthony Swarzak worked around three walks in two hitless innings, and Corey Knebel struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 39th save in 45 chances.
Patrick Kivlehan's fourth-inning homer off Suter put Cincinnati ahead, but Orlando Arcia's sacrifice fly against Sal Romano (5-8) tied the score in the bottom half. Neil Walker hit an RBI double in the fifth and scored on Ryan Braun's single for a 3-1 lead.
Suter gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings. Romano allowed four runs — three earned — and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.
The game was moved to mid-afternoon to avoid a conflict with the Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears game on Thursday night.
PACKING FOR THE ROAD
Counsell told his team to prepare for a lengthy stretch on the road. "Pack for 10 days, or you can pack for three and run out of clothes. I don't care, but we are going to be gone for 10 days," Counsell said.
Many of the Brewers rookies donned costumes in the clubhouse after the game for the trip to St. Louis. Phillips took part in a post-game interview at his locker dressed as Toad, a character from the Super Mario Brothers franchise.
The Brewers surpassed 2.5 million in home attendance for the 10th time in 11 seasons. Many fans stuck around after the game and gave the team a lengthy standing ovation. Brewers' players stood in front of the dugout and acknowledged the fans, and some players threw their caps into the crowd.
"That was something I've never been a part of," Knebel said. It was definitely fun and kind of unexpected. No one thought we'd still be in the race the last three games left in the season. This felt pretty special."
ROOKIE HURLER WANTS STARTER SPOT
Romano, one of four rookies in the Reds current rotation, wants to be a starter next season even though the organization thought his future likely would be in the bullpen. "I was still throwing 94 to 96 (mph) over 100 pitches deep," Romano said. "There's no reason why I can't be a starter in the big leagues."
Reds: SS Zack Cozart did not play after leaving Wednesday's game with right quadriceps tightness.
Brewers: 1B Eric Thames, who bruised his right foot with a foul ball in the eighth inning Wednesday, did not play. "He's sore today," manager Craig Counsell. "Eric has a shin guard on. He's trying to protect himself. It just hit him in a bad spot." ... C Manny Pina missed his sixth consecutive game because of a sprained left thumb.
Reds: RHP Robert Stephenson (5-6) starts Friday at the Chicago Cubs. Among four rookies in the rotation, he is 5-2 with a 2.87 ERA over his last seven starts.
Brewers: RHP Chase Anderson (11-4), who pitches the series opener at St. Louis, is 1-2 with a 2.95 ERA in eight starts against the Cardinals.
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