There are 21 games left to play in the St. Louis Cardinals regular season. Of those 21 four are against the second-place Milwaukee Brewers — 2 this week and then 2 more at the end of September. At 83-58 the Cardinals are in first place in the National League Central and 8 games ahead of the Brewers. To win the division the Cardinals need a combination of 14 wins and Brewers losses. With a sweep this series, the number could be down to 10 (and maybe a low as 9 with them clinching the tie-breaker, but let’s keep it simple for now).
The Cardinals will first have to face Matt Bush, a right-handed pitcher the Brewers acquired at the trade deadline from the Texas Rangers. He has made 17 appearances for the Brewers since then, but will be making his first start for his new team on Tuesday — most of the Cardinals lineup will be seeing him for the first or second time. In his 16 innings for the Brewers his strikeout numbers have improved from nearly a 30% K Rate to 37% while his homers per 9 have also gone up — 1.23 to 2.20. Overall in 2022 he has pitched 53 innings with a 3.23 ERA and 3.74 FIP. He has typical reliver pitching repertoire; he throws a 4-seamer almost 50% of the time, the follows that with a curveball. He has a cutter he mixes in around 17% of the time.
On Wednesday the Cardinals face the best pitcher on the Brewers in Corbin Burnes. The Cardinals have faced Burnes three times this season already and lost all three of those games. He has allowed 3 walks while striking out 27 Cardinals batters in those losses and held the Birdos to a .111/.147/.153 line and only one run over 21 innings. On the season he is 10-6 with a 2.93 ERA and 3.16 FIP.
The offense of the Brewers is where they have struggled of late. They come in at fourteenth in the league in team wRC plus at 102, which would be the middle of the pack, but among playoff teams they are far and away last. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, Cardinals, New York Yankees, New York Mets, Houston Astros, and Altana Braves are all 1-6 with team wRC+ of 109 or greater. The best hitter on the Brewers this season has been infielder Keston Hiura with a 122 wRC+.
That is basically the Brewers MO: strong pitching and defense from shortstop and catcher (both Omar Narvaez and Victor Caratini rank very highly defensively from behind the plate) and an average lineup on offense. But lately the back end of the rotation has been weak, the offense has slumped and all of a sudden a team that was once in first place for most of the first half of season goes 15-15 over its last 30 games and drops 8 games out of first. The Brewers are not out of it yet — Cardinals fans know pretty well the possibilities of a late season push combined with a leading team’s collapse — but they are running out games. A split seems most likely with this series, but if the Cardinals take care of business on Tuesday and can finally muster a win against Burnes on Wednesday, they have all but slammed the door shut. Let’s see what happens!
Tuesday, September 13 at 6:45 pm CDT: Matt Bush vs. Jordan Montgomery
Wednesday, September 14 at 6:45 pm CDT: Corbin Burnes vs. Adam Wainwright