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Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals @ Milwaukee Brewers

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The Brewers prepare to play the Cardinals 10 times in their last 16 games, a stretch that will decide the fate of their season

MLB: SEP 11 Reds at Cardinals Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This weekend sucked for the Milwaukee Brewers.

There’s not much sense in sugar-coating that fact, but as Craig Counsell was quick to remind folks after the Brewers were no-hit by Alec Mills, as bad as that loss felt, it counts for one loss.

Also important to remember: the next two weeks are more about the 10 games left to play against the St. Louis Cardinals than anything else. And heading into tonight’s doubleheader just 2 games behind the Cards, the Brewers could find themselves back in a postseason spot by the end of the week — if not by the end of the night.

The Brewers and Cardinals come into this first 5-game series tied in the All-Important Win Column with 20 wins apiece. Much like the Brewers, the Cardinals have been treading water all season — at least when they’ve been medically cleared to play — and haven’t done anything particularly well as they’ve gone 20-20 in their first 40 games.

They’ve been middle of the pack both offensively and on the mound. An indication of that: outside of Paul Goldschmidt, who’s hitting .310/.444/.504 with 6 home runs, their biggest offensive threat has been Brad Miller — yes, that one — with a line of .268/.400/.526 with 6 home runs and a team-leading 22 RBI. We could spend time complaining that the Cardinals can get that kind of flukey production from their low-budget signings while the Brewers have had to DFA most of theirs, but it’s worth remembering that Jedd Gyorko is somehow hitting .275/.351/.594 with 7 home runs.

Even if you think the Cardinals are the better team, there’s some hope that the sheer number of games the Cardinals will have to play in the next two weeks could end up benefitting the Brewers — if not this week, then the five-game series to end the season, which will have two more doubleheaders after the Cardinals already play three in the next week. One would think at some point attrition would catch up to them.

Then again, they’re the Cardinals, and have likely developed another batch of pixie dust that will see them go something like 15-3 to end the year.

Pitchers, Probably

Monday, September 14th - 4:10 p.m. CDT and TBD
Kwang Hyun Kim vs. Josh Lindblom
Daniel Ponce de Leon vs. Corbin Burnes

Tuesday, September 15th - 6:40 p.m. CDT
Jack Flaherty vs. Brett Anderson

Wednesday, September 16th - 4:10 p.m. CDT and TBD
Adam Wainwright vs. Brandon Woodruff
TBD vs. TBD

Kim in his his first season in the U.S. after pitching in the KBO since he was 18 years old. He’s made 5 appearances (4 starts and 1 game finished) to this point, allowing just 2 earned runs over his first 21.2 innings. He hasn’t missed many bats, striking out just 11 batters so far, but he’s exceled at inducing weak contact — he’s in the 91st percentile in hard-hit percentage, allowing a hard-hit ball just 27.3% of the time while also ranking in the 80th percentile in avoiding barreled-up contact.

Ponce de Leon appeared to have found the fountain of youth as a 26-year-old rookie a couple years ago, but he’s gotten off to a bit of a rough start this year. He’s allowed 13 earned runs in 15.2 innings so far this year, largely due to his 15 hits and 15 walks allowed in that time. He has at least shown some strikeout stuff, punching out 21. He’s largely been used in short spurts, averaging about 3 innings per outing, with 4.2 innings being his longest start on August 23rd against the Reds.

Flaherty has predictably pitched like the staff ace once the Cardinals were permitted to start playing. In 6 starts, he’s struck out 27 in 26.1 innings, allowing just 9 earned runs for a 3.08 ERA and a 144 ERA+. He’s also been used in shorter starts — at least compared to what you’d expect. After going 7 innings on Opening Day, Flaherty’s high inning total after the team returned to consistent play has only been 5 innings. His last start was one of those 5 inning outings, allowing 2 runs on 95 pitches in Game 1 of a doubleheader against Detroit on Thursday. Considering he’s pitching a game sandwiched between two doubleheaders, though, there’s a chance the Cardinals may hope he goes a little longer to save the bullpen.

Wainwright may be pitching the best out of any Cardinals pitcher right now, enjoying a 2.91 ERA through the first 7 starts in his age-38 season. The strikeout stuff understandably isn’t really there anymore — his 6.8 K/9 is his lowest since 2015, when he missed most of the season due to injury — but he’s exceling this year thanks to his curveball, which has one of the more elite spin-rates in the league and has helped him avoid the barrel of the bat to great effect.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Baseball Savant