This weekend, the NL Central will be up for grabs. If the St. Louis Cardinals can take all three games at home against their rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers, they can take over sole possession first place in the Central.
This is something they failed to do right before the All-Star break. They were in the same exact situation as they are in now. On July 11th, the Cards trailed the Brewers by two games in the standings and opened up the three-game set with a 7-6 win.
They went on to win the second game 10-2 to move into a first place tie with the Brewers but then Milwaukee rebounded with a 11-2 win over the Cards in the last game before the All-Star break to regain sole possession of first place again.
The Brewers have been in first place ALL season — the only time they were not was that brief moment between July 12th-13th.
The Cards should be very well rested — in addition to the All-Star break, they have had 3 scheduled off days since the break. Too bad it has not translated into wins. They are only 5-5 since returning to play.
The Cards hold the season series edge so far, at a slim 5 games to 4.
Their series is far from over though. They still have 10 more meetings, including three and four-game sets in September.
The Cardinals have made some key roster moves lately — signing recently released catcher A.J. Pierzynski to make up for the loss of Yadier Molina. Pierzynski has played well since signing with St. Louis, going 5-15 (.333 average) and an RBI.
They also added pitcher Justin Masterson in a trade with the Cleveland Indians last week. After having a good year last season, posting 14 wins, he has struggled this season. The Cardinals are hoping a change of scenery will be good for him. He’ll get his first start as a Cardinal on Saturday.
Yesterday before the trade deadline, the Cards added veteran pitcher John Lackey in a trade with the Boston Red Sox, in exchange for pitcher Joe Kelly and struggling first baseman/right fielder Allen Craig.
It was a very crowded outfield, with Peter Bourjos, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Craig. Someone had to go, especially with top prospect Oscar Taveras waiting to get playing time.
What did Tavares do with his first opportunity? He hit a two-run Home Run in his first at-bat in a 6-2 win over the San Diego Padres.
The Brewers didn’t make as big as splash during the trade deadline. They traded for Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra and that was their only move.
Their offense does not really need a lot of work, with Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy both enjoying career years. Jean Segura is still looking for that rookie magic and Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez are both enjoying fine seasons — not as good as they are capable of but still pretty good. They rank 2nd in the National League in runs per game (4.32), compared to the 14th ranked offense by the Cardinals (3.67).
The Cardinals need power. Bad — they rank dead last in the NL in home runs with only 69. Even the Padres (77) have more homers than that.
Even without power or tons of offense, the Cards have been able to keep pace with the Brewers as they are currently only two games back. They have a golden opportunity over the next three games and they cannot let this one slip away.
The Brewers will be looking to add some kind of cushion.
Wily Peralta (12-6 3.56 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (13-5 1.92 ERA)
Jimmy Nelson (1-2 4.30 ERA) vs. Justin Masterson (4-6 5.51 ERA)
Kyle Lohse (11-5 3.07 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (11-8 2.98 ERA)
– Khristian Peel
Also, follow me on Twitter @KhristianPeel