Back when the series preview schedule was decided and that I was to write this one, the Cardinals were a game back of the Reds and Padres, 1.5 games above the Phillies, and 2 games above the Mets. Six wins later, the Cardinals have inexplicably taken a fairly strong 3 game lead in the wild card with 14 games to play. In order to keep their position as the second wild card leader, they need to win at least some of the games against tonight’s opponent, the Milwaukee Brewers.
There is more at stake than just the second wild card. The Brewers are looking to clinch the NL Central. They’ve already clinched a playoff spot, and the NL Central appears to be a mere formality. The Brewers’ magic number is 3, which means they need three wins or three Cardinal losses to clinch. Since we play them, that means splitting the series results in the Brewers clinching. It would be cool to avoid that, even though a split is a perfectly acceptable outcome in a four-game series and especially so against a team like the Brewers.
There’s not a whole lot new to report here. We’ve seen the Brewers 12 times already this year. The Brewers are winning the season series 7 games to 5. If they simply play the Brewers to that quality in the remaining seven games, that would probably be an accomplishment. They would just need to do their job against the Cubs. The main goal in the Brewers series is probably to not lose too much ground.
Of course, they could also just keep this winning streak alive and really separate themselves from the pack. Per fellow VEB writer Skyriceq, the Cardinals are on their first eight-game winning streak since August of 2018. They’ve had a fair number of eight-game winning streaks over the years, but they haven’t won nine in a row since August-September of 2004. That’s right 2004. The odds are fairly heavily stacked against the Cards pulling that off though. Because...
Freddy Peralta (2.57 ERA/3.05 FIP/3.67 xFIP) vs. Jake Woodford (4.30 ERA/4.97 FIP/5.00 xFIP)
Now, this is baseball. Stranger things have happened than a Jake Woodford beating a Freddy Peralta and worse pitchers than Jake Woodford will end up winning games against better pitchers than Freddy Peralta in the future. The Cardinals did score four runs in two innings in Peralta’s last appearance, which if repeated, would give the Cards a pretty good shot at winning. And he was a little shaky against the Phillies, pitching 3.2 IP of 1 run ball.
But whatever rust he was shaking off from returning from the IL may be gone. He pitched six innings of scoreless ball - with 9 Ks to zero BBs - with just two hits allowed against the Detroit Tigers in his most recent start. Now maybe the Cardinals, being more familiar with Peralta, can fare better than Detroit and have figured something out against him. Maybe. That’s why we watch the games.
The other thing going against the Cardinals this game is that Woodford is starting and on a good day, you really only want him pitching four innings. Which means on a good day, you want five innings from the bullpen. And I’m not real sure the bullpen is in the best shape to do that. Giovanny Gallegos has pitched back-to-back days, and while he only threw 26 combined pitches, I don’t know if you want to push your luck with a third straight game. Alex Reyes threw 27 pitches yesterday. He shouldn’t pitch. The rest are probably available, and honestly Gio probably is if needed, but you can see the good relievers available is less than the innings needed. If Woodford is even leaving the game with a lead that is.
Favorite - Freddy’s Frozen Custard
Brandon Woodruff (2.55 ERA/2.98 FIP/3.04 xFIP) vs. Jon Lester (4.67 ERA/5.40 FIP/5.12 xFIP)
I know we’re on a winning streak and the vibes are good, but god dang do I hate our starting rotation. I mean usually against a staff against the Brewers, no matter how good your staff is, you’re not going to come out with the better pitcher in that matchup. They have three of the best pitchers in the game.
But geez. I mean this is what the playoffs will be like, huh? Just constantly throwing out bad pitchers and hoping devil magic is real. I have been aware of this for a while, but something about how freaking lopsided these first two matchups are has broke me a bit. Like this is absurd. Winning one of these games would be FANTASTIC. I genuinely miss having a rotation where I wasn’t like “well, hope the offense shows up and the pitcher gives us 4 strong innings.”
Favorite: I honestly don’t even have to say it
TBD vs. Miles Mikolas (4.50 ERA/4.60 FIP/4.86 xFIP)
Whenever J.A. Happ, Lester, or Woodford start, I can’t wait until they’re out of the game. I spend the whole game waiting for the other shoe to drop, for them to start getting crushed. I only feel comfortable with a lead, and even that’s not enough sometimes. Yesterday, I felt this dread when Happ was pitching with a 5-1 lead. And yeah the bullpen ended up coming in and allowing four runs in five innings, but I still feel more comfortable with the bullpen than those three.
For whatever reason, I feel a little more comfortable with Mikolas. I mean perhaps because he’s better, I suppose that helps. It just feels like a Mikolas start would require less luck, or whatever you want to call it. He’s not a wholly dissimilar pitcher from Lester or Happ, as he still requires the great defense and limiting walks, it’s just that Mikolas can be expected to strike out more than them, walk less than them, and get more groundballs. He’s got the same strategy, he’s just better at it than them.
I suppose today is a bullpen start for the Brewers. Kind of hard for me to judge this one without knowing how their bullpen is used in the next two days. But I will say that the Brewers middle relief to long-relief options are definitely hittable. Jake Cousins has been amazing and we’re all aware of Devin Williams and Josh Hader, but aside from that, you have a Brad Boxberger who’s more fine than scary and Brent Suter who’s pretty good. If all these guys are available on Wednesday, okay runs may be hard to come by, but some of them will probably not be available and they’ll have nine innings to cover.
Favorite - ??
Adrian Houser (3.43 ERA/4.36 FIP/4.30 xFIP) vs. Adam Wainwright (2.89 ERA/3.47 FIP/3.80 xFIP)
This feels like a sneaky loss to me. The Cardinals are going to somehow win one of the next two games, win the bullpen game, and then lose this one. I hate to predict this. Well, I’m predicting a split here, which would be great, but I don’t like the gut feeling I have on a loss in this one. I just feel like every Waino game for a while has been must win because he’s our only good pitcher and somehow we win every time, but I just feel we’re due for a loss in a Wainwright start.
And then there’s the fact that they’re playing Adrian Houser. Actually this is one of those irrational fan things because it feels like Houser owns the Cards, and he kind of hasn’t? He didn’t start a game in 2020, but in 2019, he made four starts against the Cards. They scored five runs, four runs, three runs and one run in his starts. The three runs included two unearned runs and the one run was only 5 innings. This year, he has not allowed an earned run against the Cards in two starts, but in the first (with one unearned run), he walked four and struck out three in 5 innings and if he repeats that performance Thursday, I’m inclined to think the Cards score more runs.
Hardly a run of dominance. And there’s kind of the whole game after the no hitter thing going. No, he didn’t throw a no hitter. But you know when an okay pitcher throws a no hitter and they seem to usually get blown up the next time they pitch? This isn’t his next start, but feels like he may just throw a dud because he pitched so out of his normal ability in his previous start against Cards.
Favorite - Uncle Charlie
I talked myself back into Thursday’s game. Let’s not let the Brewers clinch against the Cardinals. By the way, ESPN has Houser pitching Wednesday, Corbin Burnes on Thursday. But Roster Resource on Fangraphs has nobody starting Wednesday, Houser pitching Thursday. So that’s the source I went with.
Monday - 6:40 CT
Tuesday - 6:40 CT
Wednesday - 6:40 CT
Thursday - 1:10 CT