Feldman: Previewing key Cards/Brewers series beginning tonight
By Daniel Fredman
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (BaseballStL) -- Holding a valuable 3.5 game lead over the Pirates – and 5 game lead over the Brewers – at this point in the season, the Cardinals are coming down the home stretch of the regular season with October very much in sight. Decisions being made right now are absolutely with the postseason in mind.
Some franchises (looking at you, Kansas City) are just happy to get to the playoffs. The Cards won’t be satisfied unless they win the whole freaking thing.
Tonight marks the beginning of the last series they’ll have against their pursuers for the NL Central division crown. Milwaukee has temporarily stopped the bleeding from its epic collapse earlier this month. From August 26th through September 9th the Brewers dropped 13 of 14 games. But they’ve recently turned things around, ever so slightly, by winning 4 of 5.
It may be too little, too late for them though. They’re not only 5 games behind the Cardinals for the division lead, they’re 1.5 games behind the Pirates for the final wild card spot. Less than a couple weeks remain so every game is huge.
Here’s the pitching matchups for this 3-game series in St. Louis:
Lance Lynn looks to build on the strong second half to this season which has, quite possibly, changed the course of his career…at least as it pertains to his time with the Cardinals anyway. After back-to-back seasons where struggled mightily after the All Star break, Lynn has been sensational following this year’s Midsummer Classic. He’s 5-3 in 11 starts, spanning 70 innings, and has a 2.06 earned run average to go along with an extremely impressive .224 opponents’ batting average.
Peralta, meanwhile, has had a lot of success against the Cardinals this year. In 4 starts, he’s 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA. The Cards have scored just 6 earned runs off of him in 26 innings.
Wednesday: Adam Wainwright (18-9, 2.56 ERA) vs Mike Fiers (6-2, 1.84 ERA)
The Redbirds ace tries to show that his recent dominant starts against the Brewers and Rockies (a combined 17 innings pitched and just 2 runs allowed) is no fluke and he’s 100% back on track. There was a stretch there in late July and August where Wainwright did not look like himself. His command was off. His velocity was a touch down. Balls were getting hit hard. But if he can go 3 games in a row of pitching like the Wainwright everyone has come to know, it’ll go a long way in easing any fears about what he’ll do in a potential October rotation.
The 29-year old Fiers has impressive numbers but keep in mind he’s only made 7 starts this season and has thrown just 53.2 innings. In his lone start against the Cardinals (11 days ago) he went 6.2 innings and gave up a pair of runs. More recently, Fiers threw the pitch that hit Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton square in the face.
Thursday: Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.75 ERA) vs Kyle Lohse (12-9, 3.81 ERA)
Is Shelby Miller really this good? Has he really changed the course of his career these past few weeks? Every positive start he makes at the end of a full Major League season gives just a little more evidence that it’s true. There was a point in time when the former #1 pick was dispatched to the Cards bullpen. Those days are long gone now. In his most recent 4 starts, beginning on August 29th against the Cubs, Miller has gone:
8/29: 7 innings, 2 runs allowed vs Chicago
9/3: 7 innings, 0 runs allowed vs Pittsburgh
9/8: 7 innings, 0 runs allowed at Cincinnati
9/13: 6 innings, 1 run allowed vs Colorado
Shelby Miller is doing everything necessary to earn a starting assignment in the postseason. He’ll face former teammate Kyle Lohse in the series finale, who has been good but not great in 2014. He was limited to just 4 innings when he pitched at Busch Stadium earlier this month and has a 9.64 ERA against the Cardinals in 3 starts this year.