St. Louis Cardinals (76-63) at Milwaukee Brewers (73-66), 8:10 p.m. (ET)
09/04/2014 9:25 AM
09/04/2014 9:26 AM
(SportsNetwork.com) - For the past few seasons, this is the time of year the St. Louis Cardinals begin to thrive and their current five-game winning streak is proof.
Having been to the postseason in three straight years and 10 times since the turn of the century, the Cardinals will try to further distance themselves from the Milwaukee Brewers atop the NL Central standings when the division foes open a four-game series Thursday at Miller Park.
The Cardinals are three games ahead of Milwaukee and five games in front of Pittsburgh for the NL Central lead and just posted a three-game sweep of the Pirates in dramatic fashion on Wednesday. There was no score until the bottom of the ninth inning, when Yadier Molina drew a two-out walk and advanced to second on Jon Jay's single to left.
Not knowing he was going to be the hero, Peter Bourjos stepped to the plate and drove a base hit to center field. Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen fielded the ball, but was unable to gun down a hustling Molina at the plate and the Cardinals pulled off the sweep to win for a fifth straight time.
"I was just hoping that (Molina) was able to score," said Bourjos. "Luckily, he was able beat the play."
Trevor Rosenthal pitched a scoreless top of the ninth to earn the win. Starter Shelby Miller tossed seven strong innings, allowing just three hits and three walks with five strikeouts. Jhonny Peralta was 0-for-4 and needs three more hits for 1,500 in his career.
St. Louis is 54-28 in September dating back to 2011 and improved to 36-23 against division opponents this season. The Cardinals will also visit Cincinnati for four games on this eight-game road trip.
Taking the mound Thursday for the first time since June 17 will be Cardinals young right-hander Michael Wacha, who has been shelved with a shoulder problem and is looking forward to facing the Brewers.
"Obviously, the Brewers are a great team. I plan on watching film on them and getting ready for that start," Wacha said. "I try not to think too much about who I'm facing, but rather go out there and concentrate on myself and the strike zone."
Wacha defeated the New York Mets on June 17 in a 5-2 win, as he fired six innings of one-run ball, struck out seven and walked a pair of batters. He ended a personal two-game slide with the win and evened his mark at 5-5 to go along with a 2.79 ERA. Wacha has struggled on the road this season, going 0-7 in seven outings, but is 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in 14 appearances (10 starts) versus NL Central opponents.
In two career games (1 start) against Milwaukee, Wacha is 1-0 with a 7.36 ERA.
Milwaukee is back home for the next 11 games versus St. Louis, Miami and Cincinnati, and is mired in a season-high eight-game losing streak.
The Brewers, who have lost 11 of the last 13 games, went 1-8 on a recent road trip through San Diego, San Francisco and Chicago, and suffered a three-game sweep at the hands of the Cubs. In Wednesday's 6-2 loss at Wrigley Field, Brewers starter Matt Garza returned to the mound and was treated rudely to the tune of six runs and eight hits in just three innings.
"They found holes and they kept finding them," said Garza. "It's kind of been this trend we've been on. It's just one of those things. Keep grinding through it."
Khris Davis went 3-for-4 with a run scored and Gerardo Parra recorded a pair of hits for the struggling Brewers, who are just a half-game ahead of Atlanta for the second wild card spot in the National League.
Brewers slugger Ryan Braun missed the finale with the Cubs for the birth of his first child and could be back in the lineup Thursday. He is batting .275 with 18 homers and 77 RBI this season.
Wily Peralta hopes to stop Milwaukee's slide when he toes the rubber Thursday and has lost two straight and three of his last four starts. He lasted only three innings in a 13-2 setback to the Giants last Friday and gave up six runs and nine hits to fall to 15-9 with a 3.82 ERA. Peralta has allowed 13 runs in his last two trips to the mound.
Peralta, who won five straight starts from July 13 - Aug. 7, has an 8-5 record in 14 home starts and is 4-3 with a 4.61 ERA in seven career starts against the Cardinals. He beat them back on July 13 in an 11-2 victory, charged with one unearned run and three hits in seven innings.
The Cardinals are 7-5 against the Brewers this season and have won two straight and five of the last seven matchups between the teams.
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