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Series preview: Cardinals vs Brewers, September 16-18.

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The 83-67 Cardinals host the 78-72 Brewers to close out their regular season series.

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Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Schedule

Cardinals vs Brewers

  • Lance Lynn and Wily Peralta start tonight at 7:15 (all times central).
  • Adam Wainwright and Mike Fiers have game two tomorrow at 7:15.
  • Shelby Miller and Kyle Lohse pitch Thursday at 7:15.

  • Charlie Morton vs Anthony Ranaudo tonight at 6:05.
  • Francisco Liriano vs Clay Bucholz tomorrow at 6:05.
  • Gerrit Cole vs Brandon Workman Thursday at 6:05.
The Standings

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I am retiring the wild card standings for now. Eyes on the prize.

There are many, many marbles at stake in this series, as the Brewers could pull uncomfortably close in the standings or be all-but-eliminated from the division race at the conclusion of Thursday night's game. The Pirates' elimination number is ten, and the Brewers' is eight. Ben Humphrey took a look at all of the magic numbers this morning here. But rather than focus on magic numbers, I've been interested in how likely the Cardinals are to win the division by playing .500 ball for the remainder of the month. As it stands now, if the Cardinals go 6-6 over their remaining 12 games, the Pirates would need to go 10-3, and the Brewers would need to go 11-1 to tie them at 89 wins. The Cardinals do not need to play great to win the 2014 NL Central. They just need to not play poorly.

Remaining schedules:

Cardinals: 3 vs Brewers, 3 vs Reds, 3 @ Cubs, 3 @ Diamondbacks

Pirates: 3 vs Red Sox, 3 vs Brewers, 4 @ Braves, 3 @ Reds

Brewers: 3 at Cardinals, 3 @ Pirates, 3 @ Reds, 3 vs Cubs

What to watch

Perhaps my memory is just hazy, but it feels like this season had much less team stability than most. I don't mean just that the Cardinals have used many players, but what can be reasonably expected from several key players has fluctuated frequently. Here we are in mid-September, and I'm not sure the last few months are good indicators of what to expect going forward from Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller, and goodness knows I don't know what to expect from Michael Wacha. Matt Adams seems like he's on his third or fourth version of himself this year, and what will we see from Yadier Molina's offense over the coming weeks? Anyway, what I am most interested in seeing this series is for Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller to provide more evidence that their recent improvements are real and worth weighing heavily when we think about what they might provide in the playoffs, should the gods of baseball be kind enough to once again grant us that pleasure.

Adam Wainwright pitched a complete game against the Brewers last week, and his curveball has been looking better and better over his last few outings, giving hope that his problematic dead-arm might be getting some life to it, or at least some sort of zombie existence. But 3 K's in a complete game left me hesitant to get too excited, as it continued his long stretch of decidedly unWaino peripherals, though the walks have finally been dwindling. I had no such qualms about his last outing, however, an 8 inning, 8 K, performance against the Rockies' potent offense. That's what I've been wanting to see from him. Now do it again, please.

Much has been written on this blog about Shelby Miller's recently improved command, rediscovered curveball, and the interstaff trade of Shelby's control problems for Justin Masterson's sinker. Shelby used the sinker a lot several games ago, featured the curve after that, but only in his last outing did he use the fourseam, curve, and sinker all together. It was a good look for him. Now do it again, please.

With Michael Wacha's delayed preparedness and John Lackey's declining velocity, a healthy Adam Wainwright and an effective Shelby Miller are likely vitally important components for the Birds to make a run deep into October. Things are looking up for both pitchers, but the situation is still fragile. Given the recency of their turnarounds, a poor performance from either would make me more concerned than a random bad start in July, but a good outing from Shelby and a dominant one from Wainwright would go a long way to solidifying some newly hatched confidence in the pair and the team.

As far as the Brewers, we should learn about Matt Clark. The 27 year-old rookie 1B bats from the left side and has homered in his first three games as a starter. Read up about his unusual career path (he played in Japan!) and what he brings to the table in this piece from Brew Crew Ball.

Worldwide fan favorite Ryan Braun's nerve issue in his thumb is still a problem. He came off the bench once against the Marlins, and sat another day, but he played every game against the Reds.

Of course, Mike Fiers will be worth keeping an eye on. He threw the pitch that ended Giancarlo Stanton's season in his last outing, and hit the next batter he faced as well. Both HBP were clearly unintentional, but it would be hard for Fiers to not be rattled. He needs to pitch up in the zone to be effective, so it will be worth watching if he is able to do so confidently tomorrow. It also should be mentioned that Fiers takes advantage of a deceptive delivery, and the Cardinals just saw it last week. In fact, the Birds will be the first team he has faced twice this season.

Keys to the Series:

Il faut cultiver notre jardin.

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