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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ St. Louis Cardinals

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Can the Brewers make an improbable run at another division title?

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A week ago, this series looked a lot different on paper, perhaps even the series where the Cardinals would start putting the nail in the Brewers’ NL Central hopes.

Now, after 7 straight wins, not only are the Brewers back at the top of the race for the second wildcard, but they’re potentially a good weekend in St. Louis away from making another run at a division title at just 4 games back.

That’s despite the Cardinals being one of the hottest teams in baseball in the second half of the season, outside of a bump in the road in Colorado this week. After entering the All-Star break at .500, the Cards have gone 38-20 since, and have been in first place for virtually the past month, with the exception of two days where they slipped to a half game behind the Cubs.

It feels like much of the discussion in the NL Central race has centered around the Cardinals and the Cubs, and the 7 head-to-head games they have left in the season’s final weeks. But a stumble against the Brewers this weekend would further complicate an already complicated NL race where the Braves and Dodgers are the only sure things.

Aside from the playoff implications, the Brewers have another chance to steal a season series from a rival. After securing their first season series win over the Cubs since 2013 last weekend, the Brewers have a (slight) chance of also stealing the season series from the Cardinals -- a sweep in St. Louis would give the Brewers a 10-9 record against the Cardinals this year, which would be their third straight season series win over the birds.

This is also the last regular season series the Brewers will play against a team above .500 this year. The Cardinals, meanwhile, face a much tougher slate — they just finished their last series against a team under .500, losing 2 of 3 to the Rockies.

Probable Pitchers

Friday, September 13th - 7:15 p.m. CDT
Adrian Houser vs. Adam Wainwright

Wainwright has been pitching like it’s 2009 lately, with back-to-back 7-inning outings, allowing a total of 1 run against the Giants and Pirates. The Brewers were able to make him work the last time they saw him, though, chasing him after 90 pitches in just 3.2 innings, racking up 6 hits and 3 walks. The start before that, the Brewers scored 5 runs against him in 5 innings.

Saturday, September 14th - 6:15 p.m. CDT
Jordan Lyles vs. Jack Flaherty

Flaherty should probably be considered for some down-ballot NL Cy Young votes at this point, with his ERA now under 3 and 196 strikeouts in 168.1 innings. The Brewers were able to hit him well enough to hang him with a loss in their last meeting, scoring 3 runs (2 earned) against him in 6 innings. He followed that up, though, with back-to-back 8-inning scoreless outings against the Giants and Pirates, including allowing just 1 hit over 8 innings against San Francisco on September 3rd.

Sunday, September 15th - 1:15 p.m. CDT
Chase Anderson vs. Michael Wacha

If you didn’t know better, you would think Wacha was managed by Craig Counsell when you look at his recent game logs. He’s pitched more than 5 innings just once since the All-Star break, and that was a 7-inning outing in the second game of a doubleheader. Other than that, he’s largely been pulled in the 4th or 5th inning rather than letting an opposing lineup see him for a third time. It’s easy to see why -- he comes into this weekend with a 4.97 ERA in 26 games (21 starts), but a 5.79 FIP.

Previous Series

The Brewers were able to narrowly avoid getting swept at Miller Park a few weeks ago, when Lyles outdueled Flaherty in a 4-1 win on August 28th. It was the second time in the span of a week that the Brewers had to win the series finale to avoid the sweep. Both times, the Cardinals beat the Brewers to within just 2 games of falling to .500 before Milwaukee was able to slightly steady the ship.

Matching their season-high of 10 games over .500 with their sweep of the Marlins, the Brewers aren’t in danger of falling that far this weekend, but will have to try to keep pace with Chicago, who hosts Pittsburgh at Wrigley Field.

Player to Watch

The Brewers simply couldn’t get Yadier Molina out the last time they played the Cardinals. The aging catcher hit three home runs at Miller Park, continuing his hot hitting against the Brewers this year.

Despite an overall season line of .271/.310/.399, he’s hit .357/.419/.679 in 15 games against the Brewers, including literally half of his 8 home runs and 6 of his 22 doubles.

Following a 7-game hit streak, Molina has been in a bit of a mini-slump in the past week, going 1-for-10 in his last three games, despite the Cardinals’ series in Coors Field.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference