By Dave Schwab
Both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers are now chasing the red-hot Chicago Cubs for the lead in the NL Central Division and this week they will try and make up some ground at the other’s expense in a three-game series at Miller Park starting this Tuesday night at 7:40 p.m.
The Cardinals are coming off a 5-2 record against Colorado and Arizona in their last seven games at home after dropping two of three against the Cubs in their last road series. The net result is an overall record of 52-53 that has St. Louis 4.5 games back in the division title race. The total stayed UNDER in Sunday’s 3-2 victory against the Diamondbacks as a -124 home favorite and it has stayed UNDER or ended as a PUSH in seven of its last nine games.
Milwaukee has now lost its last four series after dropping two of three against the Cubs at home this past weekend. The Brewers only managed to score a grand total of five runs in those three games to help keep the total UNDER this closing line each time. The Brewers are just 5-11 since the All Star break and at 55-52 overall they are now 2.5 games in back of Chicago. With the two losses at Miller Park this past weekend, their record at home dropped to 29-26.
Look for Carlos Martinez to get the start for St. Louis on Tuesday night. The right-hander is 7-8 on the year through 21 previous trips to the mound with a 3.52 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. He picked up the win against Colorado last week behind some strong run support after allowing five earned runs on seven hits in six innings pitched.
Jimmy Nelson should get the start for Milwaukee in Game 1. His current ERA stands at 3.38 with a 1.20 WHIP after holding Washington to two earned runs on four hits through seven innings pitched last Wednesday. The right-hander failed to get the decision to remain 8-5 through his first 21 starts.
Wednesday’s Game 2 should feature Adam Wainwright as the Cardinals’ starter after a brief stint on the DL. If he cannot go, look for Luke Weaver to take his place. In Wainwright’s last start on July 22, he held the Cubs to two earned runs on four hits in 7 2/3 innings of work. At 11-5 overall, his ERA is 4.89 with a 1.42 WHIP.
Brent Suter is scheduled to be on the mound for the Brewers in this game. The left-hander has a 2.40 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP through six previous starts. He went a full seven innings last Friday against the Cubs to pick up the win in a tight 2-1 final score. He held Chicago scoreless on four hits.
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The Cardinals’ starter for Thursday’s 2:10 p.m. matinee at Miller Park is expected to be Michael Wacha. He looked sharp last Friday against Arizona by holding the Diamondbacks scoreless through six innings on just three hits. The right-hander is 8-4 with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP in 19 starts this season.
Milwaukee is expected to counter with Brandon Woodruff in this series finale. This is not set in stone, but he would be making his first MLB start since getting called up from the minors back in mid-June. The right-hander has looked sharp this season for Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs.
— The Cardinals are just 8-20 in their last 28 NL Central games and the total has stayed UNDER or ended as a PUSH in eight of their last 10 road games.
— The Brewers have won seven of their last nine series openers and the total has stayed UNDER in their last seven division games.
— Head-to-head in this matchup. Milwaukee has the slight 6-5 edge in the season series and the total has gone OVER in four of the last five meetings.
There are question marks in this series with both starting rotations which could have an impact in two of three games. I went with the Brewers this past weekend against the Cubs at home and they came close to winning that series. I take that chance again this week with Milwaukee finding a way to win two of three against another bitter division rival at its home park.