Enter the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers have all but thrown in the towel on the season, trading away their ace Zack Greinke to the Angels just last week. Sitting at a subpar 48-56, the Brewers just have not lived up to their billing as NL Central contenders this entire season. While Ryan Braun has had another marvelous, MVP-type season, the pieces around him just have not produced up to their ability. The names Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks, and Aramis Ramirez used to strike fear in opposing pitcher’s but they have not been the complements Braun needs to replace the departed Tiger, Prince Fielder. Other than Yovani Gallardo, a bona-fide stud at the top of the Brewer rotation, the Brewers just do not have the arms to compete in such a competitive NL Central. The turmoil has carried over into their bullpen where their All-Star closer from last year, John Axford, was replaced in the closer role by former Angels great Francisco Rodriguez.
With just 57 games left in the regular season and ground to make up in both the division and the Wild Card, the Cardinals need to continue to pound the sub-.500 clubs and the Brewers certainly fit the mold. If the middle of the Cards lineup continues to mash as it has all season, the Cardinals are as good as any team. Quietly, Matt Holliday has put together an outstanding season (.325/21/75/.408/.561) for the Cardinals and continues to be part of the 1-2 punch with Carlos Beltran that has made Cardinals fans quickly forget about the departure of Albert Pujols in the offseason. Something to keep an eye out on is Yadier Molina’s sprained right thumb which kept him out of the lineup Thursday. Those types of injuries tend to linger, and the Cardinals have to make the tough decision whether it is prudent to shut him down for a bit at the risk of falling further behind the Braves and Pirates in the NL Wild Card standings.
Let’s take a quick look at the starting pitching matchups for the series:
Friday: Randy Wolf (3-7, 5.45) vs. Joe Kelly (1-4, 2.96)
With the Cardinals’ ream of power right-handed hitters against the southpaw Wolf, this could be a Busch Stadium laser show for the Cardinals against the aging Wolf.
Saturday: Mark Rogers (0-0, 3.18) vs. Adam Wainwright (8-10, 4.24)
This could be a tough game for the Cardinals lineup. Rogers will be making only his 2nd major league start so this will be the first time all of these Cardinals hitters will be seeing Rogers. It would come as no surprise, however, if the Cards figure out Rogers during the 2nd and 3rd trip through the lineup. Wainwright has been dominant over his last 3 starts (21 k’s, 2.21 ERA) and will look to pick up where he left off after a strong July.
Sunday: Marco Estrada (0-4, 4.34) vs. Kyle Lohse (11-2, 2.91)
Lohse has not been as dominant of late, notably getting shelled on Tuesday night by the anemic Rockies lineup. Estrada is a journeyman pitcher who has the potential to be dominant on a hot night. Expect Lohse to bounce back in the comforts of Busch Stadium and a low scoring game could ensue during this Sunday matinee.
Soon enough, the Cardinals are going to be playing more games against the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates where they will control their own destiny. However, these are the types of games, against below-average opponents, that the Cardinals won last year to creep closer to the Braves as they miraculously ascended the Wild Card standings. Again, taking 2 of 3 in this series at home is a must and I believe the Cardinals will take care of business this weekend.
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