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Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals @ Milwaukee Brewers

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The Brewers open their home schedule against one of the biggest threats to them in a potential wildcard race

St Louis Cardinals  v New York Mets Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The St. Louis Cardinals haven’t missed the playoffs three years in a row since 1997-1999. The Brewers hope the keep the Cardinals home for a third straight October this year, as the Redbirds are likely one of the Brewers’ biggest competitors for a wildcard spot this year.

In a lot of ways, the Cardinals are a similar team compared to the Brewers. Both have impressive top-to-bottom lineups, but some questions about the pitching staff. In the offseason, they added slugger Marcell Ozuna in a trade with Miami to go with breakout stars Tommy Pham and Paul DeJong. Matt Carpenter is still a tough out, and Jedd Gyorko is coming off of a 30-home run season. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see a series of high-scoring but close games.

Since our season preview on the Cardinals, they’ve since signed Greg Holland to be their closer, solidifying the back end of their bullpen after they went through the spring without a clear answer for the 9th inning (not that a team absolutely needs a Capital-C Closer, but Mike Matheny doesn’t seem like the type to look at analytics and play the matchups).

St. Louis lost their first two games of the year against Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, but picked up a win on Sunday in New York.

The Brewers went 11-8 against the Cardinals last year, but it was a loss to St. Louis in the second-to-last game of the year that ended the Brewers’ wildcard hopes.

Probable Pitchers

Monday - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Miles Mikolas vs. Zach Davies

Tuesday - 6:40 p.m. CDT
Jack Flaherty vs. Chase Anderson

Wednesday - 6:40 p.m. CDT
Carlos Martinez vs. Jhoulys Chacin

Mikolas hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2014, but is looking for more success in his second stint in the majors after spending the past three seasons in Japan, where he put up a 2.18 ERA and 4.19 K/BB ratio for the Yomiuri Giants. Prior to his excursion to the Far East, Mikolas had a 5.32 ERA in 91.1 Major League innings, pitching for the Rangers and Padres.

A preseason injury to Adam Wainwright put Jack Flaherty into the rotation, and the Cardinals accidentally made their pitching staff better. Flaherty had a rough go of it last year in his first taste of big league action, giving up 15 runs in his first 21.1 innings, but he’s still one of baseball’s Top 50 (give or take a few spots, depending on who you ask) prospects and is coming off a year in which he put up a 2.18 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A, striking out 147 in 148.2 innings. Flaherty can hit the mid-90s with his fastball and has an above-average slider and a plus changeup. He made one start against the Brewers last year, striking out 5 over 5 innings, but allowing 4 runs in the season finale.

Martinez is once the Cardinals’ ace, and while he made his second All-Star appearance last year, it was his worst year as a full-time starter -- despite reaching 200 innings and 200 strikeouts for the first time in his career. A lot of that was due to the 27 home runs he allowed last year, leading to his 3.64 ERA actually outperforming his 3.91 FIP.

Martinez showed a tendency to unravel once things started to go poorly last year, and that was the case on Opening Day this year, when he walked 6 in 4.1 innings in a loss to the Mets. After the game, the Mets said they just waited for him to get inside his own head, and it happened.

He’s had some success against the Brewers in the past, but he’s basically the Jay Cutler of MLB pitchers.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference