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Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals @ Milwaukee Brewers

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Round 2 against the Redbirds, with a possible big return for the Brewers in the series finale Thursday

Colorado Rockies v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

After a much-needed day off, the Brewers return home to face a division opponent for the first time in two weeks.

The Brewers haven’t seen much of the St. Louis Cardinals this year, facing them just one other time this year — a Brewers series win during the Cardinals’ home opener series — and this is the only meeting between the two teams this month.

The Cards have stayed hot while the Brewers went through their Week of Regression last week, currently sitting at 21-14 with a division-best +23 run differential. They’re coming off a sweep of the lowly Rockies and haven’t lost a series since April 21, when a loss to the Nationals dropped them to 8-10.

The Lineup

Nolan Arenado has performed as expected to this point in the season, putting up a .281/.340/.511 line in 35 games, with 6 home runs and 11 doubles along with his usual good defense. Surprisingly, though, his 1.4 WAR isn’t the highest on the team (at least if you ask Baseball-Reference). That honor belongs to Tommy Edman, who’s compiled 1.6 bWAR so far while hitting .289/.348/.401 with a 114 OPS+ at second base and perhaps showing why the Cardinals were okay rolling the dice on letting Kolten Wong walk.

Notorious Brewer Killer Paul Goldschmidt is still working out of a slow start, hitting .246/.289/.396 on the season, but 38-year-old Yadier Molina putting together one of the best starts of his career (.329/.367/.630 with 5 home runs and a 178 OPS+ in 21 games) has helped cover for that, along with the start provided by Rookie of the Year candidate Dylan Carlson, who has a 141 OPS+ with a .303/.380/.471 line through 35 games.

Even with the likes of Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong not hitting up to their standards early this year, this is still a deep and difficult lineup for pitching to navigate. Thankfully, the pitching matchups may end up working in their favor, depending on what happens in the series finale Thursday.

The Probable Pitchers

Freddy Peralta will try to rebound from his first truly rough start of the season tonight against Kwang Hyun Kim. The lefty doesn’t throw hard at all — his fastball tops out at about 89 mph — but he specializes in limiting hard contact and he doesn’t give away free baserunners. He’s largely been a two-pitch pitcher this year working mainly with his fastball and slider, and he’s been able to get away with only using two pitches because he doesn’t typically pitch much further than the 5th inning.

The Brewers will get John Gant in the second game of the series, hopefully providing Brandon Woodruff with more (read: any) run support this time out. Gant has struggled mightily with his control this year, walking 18 batters in 25 innings in April and following that up with 6 walks in his first start in May against the Mets last week. Still, he’s managed to escape with a 2.15 ERA because when batters are swinging, they aren’t making good contact. Gant has managed to induce one of the lowest average exit velocities in baseball this year — his 91.3 mph average ranks just outside the top 15% in the league — helping him outperform his expected ERA by more than 3.5 runs.

The series finale is where things could get interesting. Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty has been on fire since allowing 6 earned runs in a no decision on Opening Day, with the Cardinals winning 6 straight with him on the mound and Flaherty allowing more than 2 runs just once in that stretch. He’s coming off 7 shutout innings against the Rockies in his last start. The Brewers still have TBD listed as their starter for this game, but this would be Corbin Burnes’ spot in the rotation, and Burnes could be ready for this start after throwing a bullpen session on Monday. We may find out more on Burnes’ status as early as today.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Statcast