8:15 PM EST, FSMW – Line: St. Louis -144
It looks like Major League Baseball indeed knew what they were doing when scheduling all division games down the stretch, as a number of divisions are still up for grabs even at this point in the season, including the National League Central, where the St. Louis Cardinals continue to try to stave off the Milwaukee Brewers tonight at Busch Field. The Cardinals (83-68) hold a rather comfortable four-game lead over their opponent tonight, but the Brewers are still in the mix for the final Wild Card birth, making them a dangerous team to deal with. Mike Matheny’s club have exhibited their experience this time of season, playing some of their best baseball over the past few months; before Tuesday’s twelve-inning epic, St. Louis had won twelve out of their past sixteen games. This three-game set with Milwaukee will be the final time these teams will meet in the regular season, and could all but bury the latter’s postseason chances.
With that said, those hopes remain alive largely because of the Cardinals’ ineptitude at the plate for the vast majority of Tuesday Night’s 3-2 defeat that lasted a dozen innings. After scoring a pair of runs in the 1st inning, courtesy of a bases-loaded walk and a sacrifice double-play, the hosts were rendered scoreless over the final eleven innings. On the mound, Matheny went through half-a-dozen pitchers, including starter Lance Lynn (15-9, 2.68 ERA), who handled the first seven innings well enough, yielding one run on five hits, striking out five Brewers while walking one. A host of relievers followed,consisting of Pat Neshek, Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, and finally Kevin Siegrist, with the latter relinquishing the game-winning RBI-single in the 12th. That loss snapped a three-game winning streak for the Cardinals, who will send the unquestioned ace of their staff, Adam Wainwright (18-9, 2.56 ERA) to the mound, with designs of starting a new one. The veteran right-hander has been as advertised at this juncture of the season, winning each of his last three starts, including a 9-1 victory over these same Brewers back on September 7th. Wainwright yielded just one run on seven hits, while throwing a mere 100 pitches in a complete game performance worthy of a former Cy Young-winner. He has faced Milwaukee three times now this season, allowing a season-worst seven runs over 5.1 innings in a 7-3 loss back on August 1st, nearly three weeks after permitting two runs over seven innings in a 10-2 rout on July 12th. With a win tonight, Wainwright can tie the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw for the Major League lead in wins.
Meanwhile, after going throughout a drought in which they lost sixteen out of nineteen contests, including nine in a row at one point, the Brewers (79-72) have since circled the wagons to climb back into contention for the final National League Wild Card birth, which they are just 1.5 games out of. Milwaukee spent the majority of the season leading the NL Central, but that dismal skid dropped them down the pecking order considerably. However, they have since won five out of their last six games, and with this current three-game series at St. Louis they have a golden opportunity to not only close the gap on the Pirates in the Wild Card chase, but the Division (four games) as well. However, time is working against them; while they still have an outside chance of grasping the division lead (4 games)there are just fourteen games remaining, but Ron Roenicke’s club are firmly focused on just getting into the Playoffs, for at that point anything can (and oftentimes does) happen.
Tuesday’s epic 3-2 victory at Busch Stadium was a well-deserved one for the Brewers, who finally saw some breaks fall their way. Needless to say, the game got off to in an inauspicious start; three straight singles off Wily Peralta (16-10, 3.70 ERA) followed by the young right-hander issuing a bases loaded walk, then led to a bases loaded double-play that brought another run home, placing the visitors in an early 0-2 hole. Peralta would settle down significantly, lasting seven innings, in which he allowed just two more hits and no runs. Six more relievers followed over the course of the next five innings, concluding with Brandon Kintzler, who earned the victory, and Francisco Rodriguez, who notched his 42nd save in 47 chances. Offensively, the Brewers climbed back into the game on the strength of Gerardo Parra’s solo homer (9th) in the 4th Inning, Matt Clark’s sacrifice fly in the 9th, and pinch hitter Hector Gomez’s bloop single int he 12th that brought Carlos Gomez home. The later Gomez ambitiously stole both second and third base thanks in large part to Kevin Siegrist’s high leg kick, enabling the speedster to advance from one corner of the diamond to the other. Roenicke is sending Mike Fiers (6-2, 1.84 ERA) to the bump tonight, hoping that the 29-year old can bounce back from hitting Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the face. Since being recalled from the Minor Leagues, Fiers has gone 6-1 with a 1.74 ERA over his past seven appearances, and has been particularly stout against the Cardinals this season; back on September 5th, the right-hander yielded a pair of runs over 6.2 innings in a 6-2 victory, and is 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA lifetime versus St. Louis