The Brewers’ magic number to clinch their second NL Central title in 4 years is down to just 3, and they have a chance to wrap things up early against the team that’s chasing them this week.
We’ll see if the Brewers need all 4 games against St. Louis to put a bow on the division.
While the division race is still pretty much settled — you have to assume SOME combination of 3 Brewers wins and Cardinals losses will happen sometime in the next two weeks — the Cardinals are hot as they have taken clear control of the NL’s second wildcard spot. Winners of 8 in a row, the Cardinals are now 3 games clear of the Reds for that spot and seem destined to take on the second place finisher in the NL West, whoever that may be. They haven’t lost a series since the Brewers took 2 out of 3 from them earlier this month.
It’s been a few years since we’ve truly had to worry about Cardinals Devil Magic, but the NL’s Evil Empire may be staging a comeback. If that’s the case, could anyone rule out them knocking off the Dodgers or Giants in a single game?
St. Louis’ bats have been on fire for the better part of two weeks now. In their last 10 games, they’re averaging 5.6 runs per game. If you isolate that to their last two series — sweeps over the Mets and Padres — that number goes up to 7.3 runs per game. There’s also that 15-run performance they put together against the Brewers in their last meeting, before Milwaukee rebounded to take the final two games of that series.
The lineup has featured several heavy-hitters as they’ve turned on the jets for a postseason push this September.
Tyler O’Neill has put up some Christian Yelich-in-September-2018 numbers so far this month, compiling a 1.118 OPS with a .333/.405/.712 line with 7 home runs and 4 doubles in 18 games. Paul Goldschmidt is hitting .322/.437/.610 with 4 home runs and 8 doubles. Nolan Arenado is struggling to hit or get on base consistently, but when he is, it’s doing damage this month as well — he’s hitting .250/.290/.563 with 6 of his 16 hits in September being home runs. Harrison Bader and Yadier Molina have also put up OPSes above .800 this month.
Considering things may be pretty well wrapped up by the time the Brewers play the Dodgers to close the regular season, this may be the toughest challenge remaining on the schedule for the Brewers.
The Probable Pitchers
Monday, 6:40 p.m. CDT - Jake Woodford vs. Freddy Peralta
Woodford has been used in a swingman role this year, making 23 appearances so far this year, with 5 of them being starts. The 24-year-old righty looks like your typical Generic Cardinals Pitcher that doesn’t throw very hard — his fastball has averaged 92 mph this year — but still excels at limiting hard contact (he ranks in the 72nd percentile this year in limiting Barrels). As a swingman, he’s largely been limited to 4- or 5-inning outings when he’s been used as a starter. He allowed 2 runs on 4 hits over 4 innings his his most recent start against the Mets last week, and didn’t strike anyone out.
Tuesday, 6:40 p.m. CDT - Jon Lester vs. Brandon Woodruff
Lester is old and can’t throw hard anymore, but has managed to bounce back from a pair of disastrous starts to begin his stint with the Cardinals after the trade deadline. In his first two starts with St. Louis, he gave up a total of 11 earned runs in 10.1 innings. Since then, though, he’s put up a 2.72 ERA in 7 starts — although his 5.23 FIP would indicate he’s been getting plenty of good fortune considering he’s only struck out 22 batters in 39.2 innings. That run includes him limiting the Brewers to just a single run on 6 hits in 4.1 innings on September 5 (although they did chase him after just 4.1 innings and 4 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks on August 19).
Wednesday, 6:40 p.m. CDT - Miles Mikolas vs. TBD
Mikolas has missed most of the year due to injury concerns, first with a shoulder injury pushing his season debut back until May 22nd, then forearm tightness after that outing shutting him down until August 20. He’s been in the St. Louis rotation consistently since then, though, and will be making his 8th start of the year this week. He’s had a bit of a rough September, allowing 12 earned runs in 18.2 innings so far this month, but he is coming off a very good start against the plummeting Padres, throwing 5.2 shutout innings on Friday night while allowing just 3 hits.
Thursday, 1:10 p.m. CDT - Adam Wainwright vs. Adrian Houser
I would say Adam Wainwright is a vampire that just can’t die, but he’s been even better during day games this year, which could be bad news for the Brewers in the series finale. With your usual small sample size warnings in place, Wainwright has struck out 9.6 batters per 9 innings in day games as opposed to 7.1 strikeouts per 9 innings at night. He’s also put up a 2.76 ERA in the daylight as opposed to a 2.93 ERA in night games. Clearly, no matter when he’s pitched, he’s been excellent — and could be on his way to some down-ballot Cy Young votes as he puts together his best year in several years.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Statcast