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A journey into Mordor: Cardinals (final) series preview

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The Brewers travel to St. Louis for the final 3 games of the regular season between these two division rivals.

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David Banks

On the season, the Cardinals have taken 10 of the 16 games against the Brewers, which means they've already won the season series. That doesn't mean anything besides bragging rights though. What does matter is their 5 game division lead on the Brewers. The Brewers elimination number is now at 8 (not be confused with their Wild Card elimination number which is 12). With 12 games left it really feels like the NL Central crown is out of reach for the Crew. Of course a sweep of the Cardinals would change everything...

Unfortunately that seems quite improbable. The Brewers won 2 games in a row vs the Cardinals only twice this year, and only once were those games in the same series. That's just so frustrating because the Cardinals don't seem to be that much better than the Brewers. Their pitching staff has accumulated a 3.59 ERA vs the Brewers 3.79. Their offense ranks slightly below the Brewers using Fangraphs' Offense statistic. The one area where the Cardinals appear to have significant lead over the Brewers it's in defense.

This of course helps their pitching staff quite a bit and in several ways. For one example, the Cardinals have allowed just 38 unearned runs. The Brewers have allowed 59 unearned runs. (Unearned runs are the result of errors and the "error" statistic is subjective and therefore not always reliable. For example, a player is never assessed an error on a ball he can't get to. That's why Yuniesky Betancourt didn't have 10,000 errors every season. The point is that unearned runs isn't exactly a fool proof way of valuing the impact on pitching by the defense. It just gives us tangible runs to look at.)

Another fearful fact is that in the last 30 days, the Cardinals have ranked 9th in FG Off while the Brewers have ranked 21st. The Cardinals' offense has actually remained steadily effective over the last 14 and the last 7 days, while the Brewers offense effectiveness has actually decreased. But, that doesn't mean the Brewers offense can take off again. They did just score 9 runs against the Reds (which wasn't accounted for at the time of writing this, since I wrote this Sunday evening) after all. They're going to have to be on top of their game because the Cardinals are throwing their 3 best starters against them.

Tuesday, September 16th - 7:00 pm CT: Wily Peralta vs Lance Lynn

I'm kind of sad because John Lackey was supposed to pitch this game. The Cardinals decided to skip his start because he's dealing with a dead arm and that sucks because Lance Lynn sure is a tougher opponent. The Brewers always seem to struggle against him, though they did score 3 runs in 5 IP against him earlier this year, so it's not like he's untouchable. However, in their last meeting, about 10 days ago, he only allowed 1 run in 6 IP. Maybe the Brewers will be helped by having faced him so recently. Of course that could work both ways.

Of note for the Brewers: Wily Peralta had been struggling, but in his start against the Cardinals he allowed 3 runs in 6 IP, then he faced the Marlins and allowed only 1 run in 6.2 innings. Looking at Peralta's game log, a few times this year he's had back to back blow up outings followed by a prolonged stretch of effectiveness. This could, and probably very like is, just noise. If it's not, then we could see the good Peralta to finish out the season. That'll go a long way toward pushing the Brewers into the postseason.

Wednesday, September 17th -7:15 pm CT: Mike Fiers vs Adam Wainwright

I was actually pretty excited when the Brewers were set to face Wainwright in the previous series in Milwaukee. Wainwright had been in a prolonged funk and the Brewers had fared quite well tagging him for 2 runs in their first meeting and 7 runs in their second. Then Wainwright had to go and pitch a 1 run complete game in Miller Park. Wainwright is a beast, but we'll always have that 7 run game to pin our hopes on.

Of note for the Brewers: This is going to be the first time this season Mike Fiers has made a second start against an opponent. He faced the Cardinals on September 5th, allowing 2 runs in 6.2 IP on 7 hits, 1 BB, and a HR. I get worried when Fiers starts for the second time against an opponent. Since his fastball is fringey, he has to rely heavily on his deception (along with command) playing up. The more times a team sees him, the better their reads are going to be, theoretically. I'm not saying Fiers is going to struggle, but I am interested to see how he fares.

Also, I almost forgot the incident with Giancarlo Stanton. I'm a bit worried that Fiers is going to have issues pitching inside because of what happened and Fiers needs to pitch on the inside to continue having success. No one could blame Fiers if he's a bit frazzled still. He has faced adversity before so perhaps he'll be fine.

Thursday, September 18th - 7:15 pm CT: Kyle Lohse vs Shelby Miller

The Brewers haven't faced Shelby Miller since April when they faced him twice. In their first meeting Miller got the best of them pitching 6 innings allowing just 1 run. The second time the Brewers got some revenge (sort of, the Cards still won both games) when they scored 3 runs in 6 IP. The Brewers hit home runs in each of those games. Over the course of the season Miller has been mediocre. If the Brewers can put for a reasonable effort on offense, it could be a good game.

Of note for the Brewers: Lohse had a bounced back outing against the Reds, allowing 2 runs in 6.2 IP. But, for whatever reason, he seems to always struggle against his former team. Combining the last 2 times he's faced the Cardinals, they've scored 12 runs in 8 IP. I have no idea what his problem is when facing them, but he's obviously not that bad of a pitcher. In their first meeting this he held them to 3 runs in 6 IP. Let's hope for something closer to that effort.

Conclusion

The Brewers have won 4 of their last 5 and with Sunday's offensive explosion it really feels like they're back to being bad asses. They're going to need to be if they even just want to win this series as the Cardinals have pretty well dominated them this year. I have confidence in the Brewers and when they're right they can beat anyone. But, at the same time, it would be foolish to discount the Cardinals anymore. Personally, I've set my sights on the Wild Card race right now, but even that probably means the Brewers need to take at least 2 out of 3. They did that once this year. I think they have the ability to do it again. Let's just hope that's how it shakes out.

Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $18,000 Fantasy Baseball league for tonight's MLB games. It's $2 to join and first prize is $2,000. Jump in now. Here's the FanDuel link!

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs