Know Thy Foe–Brewers vs. Cardinals

(This is the first installment of Know Thy Foe, where I preview the Cardinals upcoming series and touch on the Cardinals players and bring attention to some perhaps lesser knowns on the opposing team.  Thanks for reading!)

The Cardinals didn’t play their best baseball in their last series at Pittsburgh, but managed to come away with 2 wins.  Some late inning heroics allowed the Birds to take game 2, and allowed the Bucs to spoil the sweep attempt in game 3.

This weekend’s 4-game set with the Brewers could prove pivotal for the Cardinals as they look to remain in contention for one of the two NL Wild Card spots.  With a series against the Cubs looming it seems the Cardinals need at least 3 wins and, more importantly, remain focused on the task at hand.

Tonight’s starting pitching matchup could prove integral to the rest of the series as we will see Junior Guerra (7-3, 2.85) go against Jaime Garcia (10-11, 4.41).  It’ s been reported that Guerra will be limited to about 90 pitches tonight after throwing 70 in his last outing on August 27 at Kansas City.  In that start Guerra lasted just 3 1/3 innings allowing just 1 hit, striking out 2 and walking 2.  Cardinals hitters could see a lot of the Brewers’ pen this weekend.  As for Garcia, his last 3 outings have been less than stellar, but Brewers hitters haven’t fared very well against him, making this an important rebound game for Garcia.

Friday’s game will feature Jimmy Nelson (7-13, 4.36) and Carlos Martinez (13-7, 3.07).  Martinez has been the Cards’ brightest star in their rotation this season, and will need to be sharp against the Brewers.    Nelson has faced the Cardinals twice this season allowing 3 runs in each, but suffered and 3-0 loss and earned a no-decision in a 4-3 Brewers win on July 8.

On Saturday, Chase Anderson (8-11, 4.73) faces Adam Wainwright (10-8, 4.61).   Wainwright pitched well against the Brew Crew back on August 30, a game the Cardinals won 2-1, going 7 strong innings allowing 3 hits to go with 7 strikeouts and no walks.  St. Louis has faced Anderson 3 times this season winning the last 2 back on July 3 and 9 by scores of 9-8 and 8-1, respectively.  In both of those starts Anderson failed to go 5 innings.

Sunday’s matinee has Zach Davies (10-7, 4.01) pitted against Luke Weaver (1-2, 3.96).  In a matchup of young prospects Davies has been the best of the Brewers’ bunch this season and enjoyed success against the Cardinals in  a dominant performance back on June 1 where he held the Redbirds to 3 hits and struck out 9 over 8 innings.   On August 29, Davies again struck out 9 Cardinals, but this time in 6 1/3 innings and surrendered 3 runs in the no-decision as St. Louis escaped with a 6-5 win.

Players to watch:

On the Milwaukee side it’s easy to say keeping Jonathan Villar off the bases is the key to preventing the Brewers offense from getting going.   Villar leads the team in On-base percentage, Runs scored, triples and Stolen bases (52).   Manager Craig Counsell has given Villar the green light every time he reaches base, so the Cardinals pitchers will have to prevent him from getting good leads and running on any count.

Chris Carter leads the Brewers in home runs with 33, and although his batting average sits at .226, his on-base percentage is .327, and he is slugging .497.  He strikes out a ton, but given the Cardinals pitching-to-contact ways, Carter may have a big weekend.

New guy third baseman Hernan Perez is enjoying a fine year.  The 25-year old has set career marks in plate appearances (345), hits (87), triples (3), home runs (13), runs (43), RBI (51) and steals (29), while slashing .270/.301/.450.

Finally, the flashy Keon Broxton.  We’ve all seen his highlight reel catch, and like Villar and Perez, has over 20 steals this year while reaching base at a .351 clip.  His strikeout rate is predictably high for a rookie, 76 in 212 plate appearances.

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