|Brewers visit Cards for critical divisional series|
The National League Central race intensifies when the St. Louis Cardinals host the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series at Busch Stadium.
The Brewers (two games back), Cardinals and Chicago Cubs (tied for first) are bunched within two games of each other atop the division standings. The Brewers and Cardinals play each other nine times before season's end, with six in St. Louis.
The Cardinals have won seven of their last nine games, while the Brewers have lost four of their last six. In their last two games, Milwaukee pitchers allowed 30 runs in 22 innings.
But the Brewers have reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich healthy and hitting again. After struggling with back soreness for a week, he went 1-for-15 in his first three starts back before heating up over the weekend.
Yelich has gone 7-for-9 with a walk, two home runs, four RBIs, four runs scored and a stolen base in his last two games. On Saturday, he became the 19th player in MLB history to hit 40 or more homers and steal 20 or more bases in the same season.
Brewers pitcher Zach Davies (8-5, 3.74 ERA) will come off the injured list to start Game 1 against the Cardinals. He, too, was sidelined with back stiffness, last pitching Aug. 2.
"I think I'll be tight and sore in between starts. That's the nature of it," Davies told MLB.com. "But we can manage it. We can work on it and be good to go for each start from here on out.
"I've talked to a lot of people, and it's kind of based on my mechanics. I think it blocked me out and put a lot of stress on my lower back. Getting back to the last couple of months of 2017 with my motion and mechanics is where I want to be, and where I think I'll be healthy."
Davies has faced the Cardinals once this season, in a 4-3 loss back on April 23. He allowed two runs in 4 2/3 innings and did not factor into the decision.
He is 2-2 with a 4.64 ERA in nine career starts against the Cardinals.
The Cardinals will counter with Dakota Hudson (11-6, 3.82), who threw six scoreless innings in a 6-0 victory at Kansas City on Wednesday. Prior to that, he allowed 11 runs (10 earned) in 11 2/3 innings during a three-start span.
"He threw up six doughnuts, right? The obvious," Cardinals pitching coach Mike Maddux told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "But he pitched ahead. Quick outs. Bottom line."
Hudson is 0-1 with a 10.13 ERA in two starts against the Brewers this season. Last time out against Milwaukee, he allowed six runs on eight hits and three walks in 3 2/3 innings during a 10-7 loss on April 15.
In five career games (two starts) against the Brewers, Hudson is 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt continues to drive the Cardinals offense. He is 5-for-11 with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs in his last three games.
Versatile rookie Tommy Edman has gone 15-for-40 in his last 10 games with two walks, two doubles, a triple, a homer, four RBIs and eight runs scored.
The Cardinals have outfielders Jose Martinez (sore shoulder) and Tyler O'Neill (sore wrist) on the IL, though both could be back soon. Lane Thomas and Randy Arozarena are up from Triple-A Memphis filling in for them.
--Field Level Media