Milwaukee opens up a three-game series in St. Louis with first place in the NL Central on the line. Forget the off-the-field storylines, this is a matchup of two very good, sound, well-managed ball clubs.
Here are the keys for the Brewers to take the series and extend their NL Central lead.
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Probables: Tuesday: Marcum (10-3) vs. Jackson (1-1), Wednesday: Wolf (8-8) vs. Lohse (9-7), Thursday: Gallardo (13-7) vs. Westbrook (9-5)
The Brewers have won six out of nine against their rivals this season, but the Cardinals took two of three at Busch Stadium earlier this season.
Filling in for Hart
Brewers RF Corey Hart had been tearing up opposing pitchers over the last few weeks ever since entering the leadoff spot. He blasted 5 homers and was hitting .309 as the leadoff hitter for Ron Roenicke.
Hit by a pitch on the hand on Saturday, Hart will most likely be out for the series. Mark Kotsay hit fifth and started in right field on Sunday, which is most likely what will occur in St. Louis, even though Roenicke hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Hart playing.
Nyjer Morgan will display his Plushdamentals as the fill-in leadoff hitter. Ever since Carlos Gomez was lost for the season, Morgan has only started against right-handed pitchers. The Brewers and their center fielder caught a break here, facing three right-handed pitchers.
Hart’s production over the last three or four weeks has energized the Brewers to a hot streak that has pushed them into first place. If Kotsay and Morgan can maintain this production for a mere three games, the offense shouldn’t lose a beat.
OK, so maybe the Brewers don’t have any Gold Glove caliber fielders, but sound fielding against the Cardinals is a key.
In the last series, multiple throws to the wrong base and botched ground balls cost the team extra outs and, evidently, extra runs. With run producers in each batting spot for St. Louis, the defense has to be sound and make every routine play. No bonehead plays.
I’m talking to you, Betancourt.
No Ace, No Problem
During the Brewers hot streak in which the team has won 11 of 12 games, the starting pitching has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Each starter, aside from Shaun Marcum (one win), has two wins over the streak. When your starter goes out and gives the team, say, six or seven, two-run innings, the odds of winning are in your favor.
Add in the Brewers hot bats, posting double-digit hits in nine straight games, and you have a recipe for success. Hell, even Chris Narveson (knock on wood) is keeping the team in games. He should have three wins!
Case in point, this team doesn’t need one “ace.” We see the Yankees or the Tigers, for example, send out their aces in CC and Verlander every fifth day, but have four other questions in their rotation.
Roenicke’s only issue with his starting pitchers is when to take them out, and turn the game over to the bullpen. I don’t know about you, but I would love that to be my problem as manager. No ace, no problem.
Desco, Yadi and Schu
You say “what the hell does that mean, Curt”? I say, “Look at who did the most damage last week at Miller Park for the Cards. Desco, Yadi and Schu.” And don’t forget the pitcher.
Daniel Descalso, Yadier Molina, and Skip Schumaker are the X-Factors to the St. Louis Cardinals offense.
Sure, we know what the top five in LaRussa’s batting order can do, but holding the bottom of the order down makes the job a lot easier for Brewers pitching. Furcal, Jay, Pujols, Holliday, and Berkman can put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard, and that’s only five-ninths of this lineup.
Keep an eye on the bottom three in the Cards’ order, even though Molina will be sitting out Tuesday’s game due to his suspension.