It seems so very fitting that after the lose their 8 game in a row, the longest losing streak of the year, they come home to face their archenemies with a chance to walk away with a one game lead intact. I know it seems far-fetched at this dark moment, but the possibility exists nonetheless. Of course, the other extreme is falling 3.5 games out of a playoff spot altogether. The likely outcome will almost certain be somewhere between these two extremes.
It is September and so it's hard to guess who'll start on any given day. So instead of going through the whole roster I'll just look at the top of their depth chart like last time. You can see their numbers here. It's a solid group with 6 of the 8 boasting wRC+ north of 100. Only Oscar Taveras (56) is significantly below 100. Of course, only Jhonny Peralta (126) is significantly above 100. His wRC+ would rank 3rd on the Brewers behind Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy.
Things change when you only look at the last 30 days. They look a lot more top heavy. Only 4 have had an above average wRC+, but Jon Jay hit for a 191 wRC+, Peralta a 155 wRC+, and Matt Holliday a 130 wRC+. Matt Carpenter is the other above 100, but only by 2 points. Yadier Molina (albeit in limited playing time since returning from the DL), Matt Adams, and Oscar Taveras have all been well below average. The Brewers, despite their putrid runs scoring ability, have had several of their regular players well above average the last 30 days.
The Cardinals bullpen is actually rather unremarkable. Pat Neshek is having a pretty great year. He's doing everything right: Striking out a lot, walking few, limiting hits and home runs. Trevor Rosenthal is doing all right. He's striking the most of any Cardinals reliever. He's also walking the most as well. The rest of the bullpen (which is 12 players deep) is, as I mentioned already, pretty unremarkable.
Thursday, September 4th - 7:10 pm CT: Wily Peralta vs Michael Wacha
Michael Wacha is making his long awaited return to active duty. Before going on the DL, Wacha was excellent, compiling a 2.79 ERA, 3.04 FIP, and 3.50 xFIP. His K%, BB%, BAA, and WHIP were all better than average. He has only pitched in 2 innings of rehab and so he's slated to pitch only 4 innings. That could benefit the Brewers, however I'm a big fan of the "Tandem Rotation" approach because it makes it hard on the batters having to adjust and then readjust to different pitching styles in one game. Marco Gonzales and Tyler Lyons are apparently the long relief options for this game. Neither has been exceptional in their short time in the majors, but could be aided by only facing batters once each.
Of note for the Brewers: Peralta struggled a great deal in his previous two starts allowing 7 and then 6 runs. The Brewers really need him to rebound. So it might come as some relief to him that he's facing the Cardinals. In 20 innings across 3 games he's only given up 3 runs to the Cardinals.
Friday, September 5th - 7:10 pm CT: Mike Fiers vs John Lackey
John Lackey has not been what the Cardinals had hoped for when they acquired him. He's pitched 38.1 innings in 6 starts for a 4.23 ERA, 4.74 FIP, and 3.91 xFIP. As you can probably tell from that xFIP, he's had quite the home run problem. He has a 1.64 HR/9 as a Cardinal. Opponents aren't just hitting home runs off him. They're just plain hitting him. He has a .287 BAA since going to St. Louis. That's over 30 points higher than when he was in Boston.
Saturday, September 6th - 6:10 pm CT: Kyle Lohse vs Lance Lynn
Devil his due, Lance Lynn is having one hell of a season. It's mildly strange too because his K% has dropped every year since reaching the majors and is currently 3% lower than last year. That might not seem like much, but it's actually a pretty big drop and it puts his K% exactly at league average. The declining K% is mitigated by a corresponding drop in his BAA and HR/9. In fact, his HR/9 to date has dropped exactly 0.20 points. Weird.
Sunday, September 7th - 1:10 pm CT: Jimmy Nelson vs Adam Wainwright
Poor Jimmy Nelson. Somehow he's been stacked against nearly every team's ace in almost every series since his call up. Fortunately for him, Adam Wainwright has not been good lately. In August he had a 5.71 ERA and in the last 30 days he's thrown 39 innings across 6 starts for a 4.38 ERA, 4.23 FIP, and a 3.75 xFIP. It all started with a 7 run outburst by Milwaukee on August 1st.
Of note for the Brewers: Jimmy Nelson's last start was pretty shaky. The Brewers are currently rocking a 6-man rotation, but that's only temporary. With another poor start, Nelson could end up in the bullpen sooner than later. It could be Fiers, but I think the Brewers will want to acclimate Nelson to the pen in preparation for the playoffs which is where he'll be then.
The Brewers have been on an epic slide worth of the great Greek tragedies. Remember though, the Cardinals were losing right along with the Brewers for most of it. Neither team is an immovable object or unstoppable force. I don't know what's going to happen in this series. Honestly, either team is capable of crushing the other. I think the Brewers offense is better than the Cardinals. I think the Cardinals have the better pitching staff. I think neither's bullpen is going to win any awards. I think most of you are going to watch the Packer's game tonight and honestly I can't blame you. I won't be joining you though. Because the Brewers aren't going to lose every game from here on out and tonight feels like a good night to break streaks.
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Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs