|Cards look to extend divisional lead vs. Brewers|
While the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers are displaying inconsistencies that keep them stuck in the crowded National League wild-card race, the St. Louis Cardinals are the hottest team in the NL Central.
With 13 wins in their last 16 games, the Cardinals head to Milwaukee to start a three-game series against the Brewers that will either give them some more separation in the division or tighten up the race.
St. Louis (71-58) was a mediocre 44-44 at the All-Star break but only two games back because neither the Cubs nor Brewers could pull away in the division. The Cardinals regained a share of first place on July 25 and stayed there until Aug. 2.
St. Louis fell four games out on Aug. 8 due to a five-game losing streak. Since then, the Cardinals have been rolling and now sit 2 1/2 games ahead of Chicago and 4 1/2 in front of Milwaukee. The Cardinals waited through a lengthy rain delay to get an 11-4 win on Sunday over the Colorado Rockies.
Matt Carpenter homered and had three hits after entering Sunday with four hits in his previous 31 at-bats. Dexter Fowler drove in three runs, and Paul Goldschmidt drove in two runs to cap a series in which St. Louis scored 31 times.
"We had a really good homestand," St. Louis manager Mike Shildt told reporters after the game. "I just enjoyed how we played, how we went about it and the consistency of what we're doing, and our energy is going to be on all week and how we play. We can absolutely control zero about anything else. So, it's really about us, how we do it and how we execute and how we compete, and this is a group that does that very well."
Since St. Louis began its hot streak with a 6-2 win over Pittsburgh on Aug. 9, Chicago is 6-9 in 15 games while Milwaukee is 7-7 in 14 games.
The Brewers saw a three-game winning streak snapped with a 5-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday. Heading into a stretch where 10 of its next 12 games are against St. Louis and Chicago, Milwaukee trails the Cubs by two games for the second wild-card spot.
Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun had two hits apiece, but the Brewers went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and were blanked until the seventh inning on Sunday.
"We did a good job battling back and scoring some runs and having some innings where something good was one hit away from happening," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said after Yelich ended the game by grounding out with two on. "We just couldn't finish it."
Despite coming up short, Braun and Yelich both enter Monday on hot streaks. Braun is hitting .382 (26-for-68) in his last 22 games while Yelich is batting .304 (21-for-69) in his last 17 games.
The series opens with a pair of veterans as Milwaukee starts left-hander Gio Gonzalez (2-1, 3.64 ERA) and St. Louis starts righty Adam Wainwright (9-9, 4.51).
Gonzalez has seven straight no-decisions since May 21 and is facing St. Louis for the second straight start. He allowed one run on three hits in five innings in Milwaukee's 9-4 loss in St. Louis on Tuesday.
The veteran left-hander is 3-4 with a 3.11 ERA in 11 career starts against St. Louis.
Wainwright is facing Milwaukee for the second straight time after allowing five runs on eight hits in five innings of a 5-3 loss on Wednesday.
Wainwright is 16-10 with a 2.48 ERA in 40 appearances (33 starts) against the Brewers. He is 7-4 with a 2.60 ERA in 19 career appearances (15 starts) in Milwaukee.
St. Louis leads the season series 7-6.
--Field Level Media