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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, August 17, 2011 at 11:59 PM

That’s a 21-game salute that’s going make some noise! The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-1 Wednesday Night to win their nineteenth game in the last 21 outings. They maintained their seven game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, who defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-2.

As we mentioned last night, great pitching has been a hallmark of the recent Brewers tear. You saw that again this evening with a stellar performance from Zach Greinke. Let’s run the numbers for the starting pitchers on this current homestand…

MILWAUKEE’S STARTERS

Greinke: 7 innings, 1 earned run vs. LAD

Gallardo: 8 innings, 1 earned run vs. LAD

Wolf: 8 innings, 0 earned runs vs. LAD

Marcum: 7.2 innings, 1 earned run vs. Pittsburgh

Estrada: 5 innings, 0 earned runs vs. Pittsburgh

Greinke: 7.2 innings, 2 earned runs vs. Pittsburgh

Even the spot starter Estrada put up goose-eggs! That’s a grand total of five earned runs allowed by starting pitchers in 43.1 innings…for a stunning ERA of 1.04.

Now, it’s true that the Dodgers and Pirates aren’t exactly setting the world on fire lately. They’re lame duck teams who may not be bringing peak intensity every night. If you go back an extra six games to include the prior road meetings with St. Louis and Houston…the 12-game ERA for starters is still a sparkling 2.07, with nine of the 12 outings being quality starts.

There were concerns early in the season that the pitching wasn’t going to be enough for this team.

*Zach Greinke wasn’t ready to go at first, then stumbled a bit as he worked off the rust. His ERA was still a very high 5.45 a couple of starts into July, but is a dominating 1.55 over his last six starts.

*Yovani Gallardo had an ERA of 4.08 as recently as mid July. It’s 1.98 over his last six starts.

*Shaun Marcum has been solid all season, though he’s dropped off a bit. If he’s your #1 or #2 guy entering the playoffs, you’re probably going to be in trouble. He’s a solid #3.

*Randy Wolf entered the season as an innings muncher who was probably going to need to get run support to have a good season. But even Wolf has an ERA of 2.37 over his last seven starts.

The concern now is about the staff peaking too early. They don’t hand out trophies for being the best in August. But, you can sew up a division with a great August. The Brewers are on the verge of doing just that. If Milwaukee can just play .500 ball over their last 38 games, St. Louis will have to go 26-12 to catch them. The Cards are only eight games over .500 in their first 124 after tonight’s victory. (Note that St. Louis over Pittsburgh was part of a 2-1 Wednesday Night for oddsmaker Nick Bogdanovich, with the Cincinnati Reds also cashing their ticket)

In other pennant race news…

*San Francisco picked up a game on Arizona in the NL West. The Giants beat Atlanta 7-5, while Arizona lost big at Philadelphia 9-2. Arizona self-destructed a bit in terms of pitching and fielding when the game started to get away from them. It’s not the end of the world because they were such big underdogs against Cliff Lee. That may be a strike against them in terms of playing well under pressure from this point forward.

*The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox both lost in the AL East. So, the Yanks maintain their half game lead at the moment. Boston totaled just 3 hits for the third straight game! They have a batting average of .105 over their last three games vs. the Rays. Bad time to have an outage!

*Cleveland picked up a game on Detroit in the AL Central. The Indians beat the Chicago White Sox 4-1, while Detroit fell to Minnesota 6-5. The Tigers now lead by only two games.

*Texas and the LA Angels will finish after publication deadlines. The Rangers took the first two games of the series to pull out to a six game lead in the AL West. They finish their four-game set Thursday Night.

Thursday Night brings FOOTBALL back to the sports schedule. Philadelphia visits Pittsburgh on FOX. New England visits Tampa Bay in what should be a very entertaining game as well. It will be televised on tape delay on the NFL Network at 11 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. Vegas time.

We hope you pay some visits to the VSM handicappers for this week’s football. Records of note:

*Jim Hurley’s Network is off to a 4-2 start, 67% vs. the spread

*Wayne Root is 3-2, 60% winners…with his top play cashing on Cleveland

*Tony Salinas is 3-2, 60% winners…with a 2-0 record on top plays

*Kelson Sturgeon is 3-2, 60% winners.

*Coach Ron Meyer has hit three straight 20-star releases

We’ll be back with you again Thursday morning for a preview of the NFC East in the Network Notebook to get you ready for Eagles/Steelers. More treats are planned for later in the day. Late Thursday Night we'll crunch some numbers from the NFL action and check in again on pennant race baseball. That's for being with us at the new VSM blog!

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