Series: Game 3 of 4

Milwaukee leads 2-1 (as of 10/2)

Game 1: Thursday, September 30
St. Louis6
Game 2: Friday, October 1
St. Louis4
Game 3: Saturday, October 2
St. Louis1
Game 4: Sunday, October 3
St. Louis9

Brewers 5

(67-93, 31-48 away)

Cardinals 1

(104-57, 52-28 home)

    4:15 PM ET, October 2, 2004

    Busch Stadium I, St. Louis, Missouri 

    123456789 R H E
    MIL 102000200 5 8 1
    STL 000010000 1 8 1

    W: B. Sheets (12-14)

    L: J. Marquis (15-7)

    Cards have lost 5 of 6

    ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Ben Sheets put a stylish finish on a frustrating season, shutting down the National League's best team.

    Sheets threw his fifth complete game of the season and the Milwaukee Brewers took advantage of a shaky playoff tuneup by Jason Marquis for a 5-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.

    "I was just trying to win, they're a good team with a hard lineup to pitch to," Sheets said. "After about the seventh inning, I kind of knew I would finish.

    "I've got four months to rest."

    The NL Central champions have lost five of six with one game to go in the regular season and at 104-57 they missed a chance to tie the franchise record of 106 victories set in 1942. They're 7-7 since clinching the division on Sept. 18, the earliest of any team this year.

    Manager Tony La Russa gave Sheets most of the credit for the latest loss. He retired 14 of the last 17 and struck out Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and Roger Cedeno twice each.

    "He's high quality," La Russa said. "The only way you're going to beat him on a day like today was for Jason to match him and we break through. But it didn't happen."

    Sheets (12-14) allowed eight hits and an unearned run, winning for only the third time in 13 decisions since the All-Star break, even though he had an ERA of 2.70 in that span. He struck out 10 -- his ninth double-digit game this season -- to hike his career best to 263, second-best in the NL behind Randy Johnson.

    Despite his sub-.500 record, he finished with a 2.70 ERA, third in the NL.

    "I made better pitches this year and feel like my repertoire is getting better," Sheets said. "I didn't play much in the minors and most people do a lot of growing there.

    "I grew before the people of Milwaukee's eyes."

    Lyle Overbay homered and had two RBI for the Brewers, 8-8 against the Cardinals but 67-93 overall.

    Marquis (15-7) threw 112 pitches in 4 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on five hits with five walks and three strikeouts. He'll start in Game 2 of the NL division series after finishing 1-3 with a 5.96 ERA in his final five starts.

    Pitching coach Dave Duncan thought Marquis might have been looking ahead to the playoffs.

    "He was all over the place," Duncan said. "His delivery was all over the place, his control was bad, he was behind in the count, up. Everything."

    But Marquis said it was more of a matter of his release point being way off.

    "In the bullpen, I didn't get a good feel of where I want to be, and I carried that over to the game," Marquis said. "I didn't make the adjustment."

    Overbay's RBI double in the first put the Brewers ahead. Chris Magruder and Overbay walked ahead of an RBI double by Geoff Jenkins and Keith Ginter's sacrifice fly in the third to make it 3-0.

    Overbay hit his 16th homer and Craig Counsell had a run-scoring single in the seventh, both off Cal Eldred.

    The Cardinals scored in the fifth on a two-out fielding error by third baseman Russell Branyan, allowing Ray Lankford to score from third.

    Game notes

    The Cardinals topped 3 million in attendance for the eighth time in franchise history. The crowd of 41,219 on Saturday put the total at 3,008,578. ... Ginter was 0-for-2 to end an eight-game hitting streak during which he was 15-for-32. He had homered in three straight games. ... Cardinals RHP Julian Tavarez returned to the roster after serving an eight-game suspension for having a foreign substance on his hat and worked a scoreless sixth with two strikeouts. ... Jim Edmonds is in a 1-for-29 slump that has dropped his average to .301.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press