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Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals @ Milwaukee Brewers

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The Brewers have two months to make up 2.5 games, and it starts with another big rival

Arizona Diamondbacks v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The trade deadline has come and gone, and now the Brewers find themselves just 2.5 games back of first place with two months to play. The schedule is chock full of division games in the final 55 contests of the year, starting with another series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since most of us in the Brewers universe have been focused on the Cubs for much of the year, it's easy to not notice that the Cardinals are just 4.5 games back of first place themselves, despite coming into this series a game below .500. Still, the Cardinals enter with the second-best run differential in the division at +24 (the Brewers are at +23 after their recent low-scoring slump) and are winners of 6 of their past 10. This is about the time of year when Cardinals Devil Magic kicks in after laying dormant for a few months.

Previous Series

It's been awhile since we've seen St. Louis, with the most recent series coming in mid-June. After splitting a doubleheader on June 13th, the Brewers won the next two days to take 3 of 4, which pushed their lead in the NL Central up to 2.5 games at the time. Before that, the Brewers took 2 of 3 in St. Louis to start the month of May, meaning they've won back-to-back series against the red birds. Overall, they're 6-5 against the Cardinals this season.

Probable Pitchers

Tuesday, 6:40 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Carlos Martinez vs. Jimmy Nelson

Nothing like a great pitching matchup to start a series. Martinez was an All-Star for the Cardinals this year and is well on his way to setting a new career high for strikeouts, but has struggled for much of July and has seen his ERA and FIP rise to 3.52 and 3.83, respectively. He's already set a career high for home runs allowed, with 17, and 7 of those came in the last month. Over his past 5 starts, Martinez has a 5.90 ERA, thanks mostly due to a total loss in control -- as evidenced by the home runs and the 11 walks he issued in 29 innings. Overall, opponents hit .308/.372/.556 against him in July. The Brewers have faced him twice this year, touching him up for 5 runs in 5 innings -- and two home runs -- on April 20th, but getting shut down on May 2nd when he pitched into the 8th inning without allowing an earned run.

Wednesday, 7:10 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Adam Wainwright/Luke Weaver vs. Brent Suter

In all likelihood it will be Wainwright taking the mound for the Cardinals in the middle game of this series. He's currently on the disabled list with back tightness, and according to MLB.com, if he can't go, it will be Weaver making the start. Wainwright continues to scuffle through a second straight tough year when it comes to results, currently carrying a 4.89 ERA. His FIP is nearly an entire run lower, though, at 3.93. He's also historically been a Brewer Killer, regardless of how he's been performing.

Weaver is a 2014 first round pick of the Cardinals and a Top-50 prospect. He's pitched like it so far this year, with a 1.91 ERA/2.18 FIP in 13 starts in Triple-A and striking out 69 and walking just 14 in 66 innings. He's made three appearances in the big leagues so far this year, allowing 4 runs in 8 innings, striking out 7 and walking 3. All of those runs came in his last appearance, when he made a start against Arizona and went 5 innings.

Thursday, 1:10 p.m. CDT, FS Wisconsin - Michael Wacha vs. TBA (Matt Garza?)

Wacha has bounced back from a rough 2016 season to put up a 3.71 ERA/3.38 FIP and 115 ERA+ in 19 starts so far this season. His strikeout numbers have also jumped to their highest levels since he switched to the rotation full-time in 2014, with his K/9 spiking to 8.9 this year, up from 7.4 last year. This will be the third time the Brewers have faced Wacha this year, and they've had a good amount of success against him, chasing him after 4 runs in 4 innings on June 15th and also scoring 4 off of him in 6 innings on May 1st.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference