8:10 PM EST, FSWI – Line: Milwaukee -105
A pair of teams heading in opposite directions meet tonight at Miller Park, as the reeling Milwaukee Brewers host surging St. Louis Cardinals. September is a terrible time to experience a losing streak, particularly when you’ve been in a season-long dogfight in your division, but that is precisely where the Brewers find themselves. Milwaukee (73-66), who once held a healthy lead in the National League Central which seems like a lifetime ago, has now lost eight consecutive games and trails tonight’s opponent, St. Louis by three games. Ron Roenicke and Co. are now in full blown crisis mode after suffering a three-game sweep at the hands last-place Chicago, a disappointing series in which they were outscored 17-5. During this period the offense has completely flat-lined; the Brewers have batted a mere .211 over the last eight games and have been outscored by a ridiculous 39 runs.
Wednesday’s 6-2 loss at Wringley Field was yet another blow for a team that has taken far too many hits of late, as they suffered their first three-game sweep against the Cubs since 2004. The visitors sustained all their damage in the 2nd and 3rd Innings, allowing a total of six runs, while their own anemic offense was nowhere to be found. To put things into perspective, Chicago scored six runs on eleven hits, while despite racking up ten hits, Milwaukee could muster just a pair of runs. That’s because they stranded eight men on base, with all their vaunted power unable to drive their teammates home. On the mound, they didn’t fare much better; Matt Garza (7-8, 3.87 ERA) was rocked for six runs on eight hits in three long innings of work, while a quartet of relievers provided damage control over the remainder of the contest. Taking the hill tonight is Wily Peralta (15-9, 3.82 ERA), who Roenicke hopes will snap out of his own funk that has been indicative of the overall plight of his team. Peralata has dropped each of last two starts, yielding a combined fourteen runs in just eight innings of labor, a troubling sign for a pitcher who had gone 6-1 with a 1.59 ERA in his previous seven appearances. However, there may be a silver lining after all; the young right-hander has performed well against the Cardinals, posting a 4-0 resume with a 2.16 ERA in four starts against the defending NL Central Champions. He has faced St. Louis on three occasions this season, and most recently allowed just three runs in 6.2 innings of 7-4 win back on August 1st.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals (76-63) are peaking at just the right time, which is what you would expect from a franchise that has advanced to the NLCS in in each of the last three seasons. Winners of five consecutive outings, the St. Louis is on a roll when their direct competition in the division in fading away, and that is just something that comes with the experience that they possess. Mike Matheny has once again done a tremendous job with a club that has suffered a myriad of injuries throughout the campaign, but has continued to plug away, thanks to a wealth of depth in the rotation. A three-game sweep of Pittsburgh, dropped the Pirates further down the Standings, while this impending four-game set with Milwaukee could effectively finish off the division.
Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over the Pirates was a dramatic one, as Centerfielder Peter Bourjos belted a walk-off single, driving home Yadier Molina in the 9th Inning. It was a true pitcher’s duel at Busch Stadium, but it was a walk on a full count that allowed Molina to reach base, followed by a single from John Jay to advance the Catcher, that set up Bourjos’ game-winning RBI. On the day, the Cardinals could muster just five hits, with the Top of the Order going a collective 1-for-17, but they were able to get just enough out of the Bottom of the Order (4-for-12) to own the day. Starting pitcher Shelby Miller (8-9, 4.00 ERA) was brilliant, allowing no runs on just three hits in 7.0 strong innings, in which he struck out five and walked three Pirates. Stepping up to the mound tonight will be Michael Wacha (5-3, 2.79 ERA), who is making his long-awaited return after a 2.5-month absence rehabbing from a stress reaction in his throwing shoulder. The right-hander hasn’t pitched in a Major League game since June 17th, but Matheny believes that now is the time to get him up and running en lieu of another long postseason run. In his only start against the Brewers this season, Wacha was masterful; he struck out nine in 6.1 innings of work, allowing just three runs in a 5-3 loss in which he earned a no-decision.