Well, that’s more like it. A few days ago we were wondering if all those preseason prognosticators were right about us, if maybe Grant Brisbee had us pegged from a mile away. And look at us now. Following a three-game sweep over the Pittsburgh Pirates, who Ben Zobrist hailed as the best competition in the NL Central because they somehow managed to smack the Cubs around a bit, we’re now heading to Milwaukee with a 6-9 record and right back in the thick of things.
Want to know who foreshadowed this? Mr. Ozzie Smith, that’s who. Here’s what he had to say on Monday morning:
You can’t lose faith in each other and you have to continue to go out there and grind, because it is a grind. 162 games is a long, long way home, and you may wake up tomorrow and the things that weren’t working, you know you get that one base hit or that one defensive play and things slowly turn around.
As always, listen to Ozzie Smith.
By the way, as you’ve likely heard by now, all three victories over Pittsburgh were by the score of 2-1. Pretty cool, right? First, I’m patiently waiting to find out when, if ever, that last happened. Second, this is the first time in history when the Cardinals won a game in which both runs were the result of solo home runs from the same player, that player being Dexter Fowler. And third, since 2013, when the Pirates first became a thorn in our side, these two clubs lead the NL in one-run victories: 119 for the Pirates and now 112 for us (I recognize I keep saying “we” and “us.” Sorry, it started at the beginning of this column and I can’t stop now.)
Anyway, off to Milwaukee, who very easily could have taken three games from the Cubs at Wrigley this week and forced Zobrist to redo his NL Central Power Rankings, but they blew both games 2 and 3 in late innings. Still, the Brew Crew currently sit at a respectable 8-8, which is good for third in the NL Central behind the Reds and those Cubs. The NL Central currently looks like the standings from a few years ago were turned upside down, and while that probably won’t be the reality at the end of the season and that might not be the reality a week from now, the Brewers are holding their own.
Some of that has to do with first baseman Eric Thames who has been unstoppable. For the season he’s slashing an absurd .408/.500/.959. Thames leads the majors in home runs, runs scored, slugging, and has already been worth 1.4 fWAR. It’s not just Thames though. Brewers staple Ryan Braun is off to a great start (.306/.414/.653) and third baseman Travis Shaw already has four home runs of his own. As a team, the Brewers have out-homered the Cardinals 29 to 14. In fact, those 29 long balls lead the entire majors.
I’m going to outsource the pitching match-ups, and the Cardinals’ win probability to a screenshot from FanGraphs’ new team page:
If you haven’t heard, these team pages are fantastic. Bookmark the Cardinals’ page and obsessively check it every morning if you feel you need more balance in your life.
As shown above, the Cardinals have starters 1 through 4 going in this series and are favored to win each game, and that’s largely due to the fact that Brewers starters have a combined 4.36 ERA for this young season. A lot of that has to do with tonight’s starter, Zach Davies, who has an unsightly 8.79 ERA in three total starts.
I mentioned that the Brewers coughed up a couple of late leads to the Cubs earlier this week, and when scanning their bullpen you’ll find our old friend Neftali Feliz in the closer role. He had a rough outing yesterday and gave up a walk-off 3-run home run to Addison Russell but prior to that he had only allowed a single earned run all season. Still, if the Cardinals can get to the Brewers’ pen early we should all like our chances.
Lastly, from behind enemy lines, I asked Banished to the Pen contributor and Brewers fan, Ross Bukouricz, to tell us in no more than seven words what to expect from the Brewers in this series:
Dingers, aggressive base running, holding on for dear life when pitching.
That’s over the word-limit but we appreciate his contribution nonetheless. Go Cardinals.
This series is at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
Tonight, 7:10 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Friday, 7:10 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest
Saturday, 6:10 pm CT, Fox Sports One
Sunday, 1:10 pm CT, Fox Sports Midwest