Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 7:00 PM
It took a lot longer than most were expecting. But, the surging St. Louis Cardinals are rising in the NL Central just as the Milwaukee Brewers have started falling back to earth. Those teams meet this weekend in Milwaukee…and the Cardinals could very well have a piece of first place when the series is in the books.
It happened so quickly!
Heading into Thursday action, Milwaukee had lost four straight games and eight of their last 10, while St. Louis was on a three-game winning streak that had extended a good run. A six-game deficit for the Cards in the newspaper standings was suddenly old news. And, Milwaukee now has to start worrying about the Wildcard picture too…because they’re just not that far ahead of the runners-up in the NL East and NL West divisions. Two weeks ago, the Brewers were a virtual lock for the playoffs. They may be down to a coin flip in the first weekend after the All-Star Break.
Let’s run the numbers for this huge showdown…
St. Louis: 3.70 runs per game, .318 on-base, .371 slugging
Milwaukee: 4.38 runs per game, .314 on-base, .410 slugging
Milwaukee has gotten the best of it all season because they have more power. But, we all know how hard it is to win a pennant with offense alone. Too hard to deliver offense day-in-and-day-out, especially this year. And, we’re just now getting to the dog days of summer where fatigue starts to hit sluggers. St. Louis would be a true force in the NL if they could just get up to four runs-per-game.
FRIDAY’S PITCHERS (televised by MLB Network)
Joe Kelly: 0.59 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 5.3 K-Rate
Yovani Gallardo: 3.45 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 6.8 K-Rate
Kelly hasn’t pitched since mid-April because of a hamstring injury. Those impressive looking stats came in only 15.1 innings right when the season started. There’s just no way to know how he’s going to perform in these first few starts back. Assume his career norms, with perhaps a little rustiness. Gallardo has thrown quality starts in five of his last six outings, knocking about half a run off his ERA in the process. Just the guy Milwaukee wants to have on the mound to start this crucial series. Edge to the Brewers in the series opener. But, if Kelly can stay healthy and produce…that’s going to provide an enormous lift for the Cardinals after the ASB.
Adam Wainwright: 1.79 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 7.6 K-Rate
Marco Estrada: 4.96 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 7.7 K-Rate
Wainwright is once again making a very strong case for a Cy Young Award. He’s only allowed four earned runs in 45.2 innings over his last four starts! And, with 11 wins already, he’s on pace to reach 20 in an era where that’s become very difficult. Clayton Kershaw could have a very strong finishing kick. Wainwright’s putting up quite a standard for Pitcher of the Year honors. With Estrada…this should be impossible, but Marco has allowed 27 home runs already this season! That’s a terrible number for a full season, let alone HALF a season! That’s why a decent WHIP still leads to a poor ERA. Major edge to Wainwright.
SUNDAY’S PITCHERS (televised by TBS)
Carlos Martinez: 4.12 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 7.9 K-Rate
Wily Peralta: 3.95 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 6.8 K-Rate
The Cardinals have won all five of Martinez’s starts, even if he’s not lasting long enough himself to get credit for the win. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! The Cards continue to use a San Antonio Spurs strategy of pacing their young starters so they last the season. Martinez has been a successful stopgap. Peralta has fallen off the map recently. In his last eight starts, he’s allowed 34 earned runs in 48 innings. The Brewers playoff hopes fade quickly if Peralta goes from a net positive to a net negative. Might be a spot to think about the Over, particularly if weather conditions favor home run hitting.
JIM HURLEY is likely to have at least one play in this series this weekend, and it could be a blockbuster. Be sure you finish out the first half of the season in style by purchasing game day BEST BETS all through the weekend. You can do that right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about baseball or early-bird football, call the office during normal business hours Friday, or before first pitch Saturday and Sunday at 1-888-777-4155.
The NOTEBOOK returns to football this weekend to transition from mid-major college football conference previews to the major conferences. Here’s the upcoming schedule…
Saturday: College Football…Sun Belt Preview
Sunday: College Football…Independents Preview (including Notre Dame)
Monday: NL Review at the All-Star Break
Tuesday: AL Review at the All-Star Break
Wednesday: College Football…ACC Atlantic Division Preview
Thursday: College Football…ACC Coastal Division Preview
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