The Cardinals and Brewers start a three-game series today. This is the most important series for the Cardinals thus far, a designation that will be usurped by every subsequent series until the end of the season. Such is life when you’re 1 1/2 games out of a playoff spot with around 40 games to play.
Milwaukee started 2018 on the right foot and were 18 games above .500 as early as July 6, and they didn’t relinquish the NL Central lead to the Cubs until just prior to the All-Star Break. But since August 1 they’ve played under .500 ball, which not only allowed the Cubs to cushion their lead but the Cardinals to creep up on them as they have the last two weeks. On July 31 the Brewers had about an almost 80 percent chance to make the postseason while the Cardinals sat near seven percent. And now, here we are.
Even so, there’s a lot to admire about this Brewers squad. David Stearns has been the General Manager in Milwaukee for about three years now and he deserves a lot of credit for getting the Brewers back into contention without having to endure several 95+ loss seasons, contrary to the Cubs, Astros, and several other teams who have yet to see the fruits of their futility.
Lorenzo Cain signed with the club in January (he was originally drafted by Milwaukee and sent to Kansas City in 2010 as part of the package for Zack Greinke) and he’s been a legitimate MVP candidate. Cain joined Christian Yelich in the outfield, who came over at the same time via a trade from Miami, and he’s put up the type of production that a lot of Cardinals fans were hoping to see from Marcell Ozuna (although the Brewers rightfully paid a higher price tag for Yelich, too.)
The concern was always their pitching. There was a lot of noise this offseason on the Brewers not taking a flyer on free agent pitchers like Lance Lynn and in retrospect that may have been a bit hysterical. Their starters – led by Jhoulys Chacín and Junior Guerra – have combined to be perfectly average by NL standards, and they’re supported by arguably the best bullpen in the league, an outfit that has struck out almost 27 percent of batters faced.
As for the Cardinals, I wrote before the Nationals series that things were about to get tough and this series is what I meant. The Cardinals only have six games remaining against bad teams (Reds and Tigers) and to counteract that they need to take advantage of opportunities when they can. That means winning at home. Winning these games. Win this series – and the Cardinals have the pitchers lined up to do it – and they’ll be in the driver’s seat. Lose these games and the road forward is that much tougher. Those are the breaks when you play basically .500 ball over the first 100 games of the season.
Per FanGraphs, here are the projected starters for this series as well as the Cardinals’ win probability.
Other notes: The Cardinals hold a 196-146 all-time series lead over the Brewers, but only a 93-77 mark in St. Louis. Of course, the Brewers used to hang out in the American League which resulted in these two teams squaring off in the 1982 World Series. It’s true what you’ve heard, the Cardinals won that series. For your enjoyment, here’s a Willie McGee highlight from Game 3.
Lastly, here’s former Cardinal and perpetual Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker blowing into that tuba that Mike Shannon loves to talk about.
I love Bob Uecker (here’s Norm MacDonald telling a hilarious Bob Uecker story on an old Letterman appearance) and we should all enjoy him while we still have him. And I have to admit, I love hearing Shannon talk about Uecker and that stupid tuba, too. Enjoy the games and enjoy your weekend, everyone.
Tonight’s game kicks off around 7pm St. Louis time; Saturday – 6pm; and Sunday – 1pm.