The Cardinals have three games with the Brewers, then travel to Houston for four games against the reigning National League champions.
St. Louis’ game on Sunday with San Francisco was postponed and will only be made up if necessary. Still, the Cardinals took the first two games of the series and finished 4-1 on their homestand.
With Cincinnati’s 11-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, St. Louis (79-68) increased its lead to seven games without playing. St. Louis’ magic number is eight and can get closer to the division championship with a series victory over the Brewers (67-82).
St. Louis also is trying to adjust to the absence of injured closer Jason Isringhausen, who is out the remainder of the season with a hip injury. Braden Looper, a free agent signee in the offseason after closing for the New York Mets in 2005, will now be Tony La Russa’s first choice to finish games.
“It’s hard to replace a guy like that,” Looper said. “Everybody’s going to have to just step it up a little bit and try to cover the loss.”
If the Cardinals can’t close out the division on the road, they have three games at home against San Diego before finishing with four games against the Brewers, who are wrapping up a disappointing season.
Milwaukee went 81-81 last season, its first non-losing season since 1992 and expectations were high the team could challenge for a wild-card spot. But a 5-17 swoon since Aug. 25 damaged the team’s chances and the Brewers enter this series 13 games behind the Cardinals, another losing season ensured after a 6-1 loss to Washington on Sunday.
The Brewers lost two of three to the Nationals and have lost 11 of their past 13 on the road.
“Life would be grand if nobody expected anything out of you, but that’s not the case,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “I’ve got expectations, fans have huge expectations for them, the organization has expectations for them, and they have to learn how to deal with that and produce through it.”
Chris Capuano (11-11, 3.66 ERA) looks to snap a three-game losing streak when he starts for Milwaukee on Monday.
He allowed six runs and nine hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday, and has gone 1-7 in 12 starts since the All-Star break.
“Today was very frustrating for me,” Capuano said. “I’ve been throwing the ball well since the end of July. It was just a bump in the road. I’ve got three starts left and I’m hoping to finish strong.”
Despite the losing woes, Capuano has pitched well, as his ERA has remained below 4.00 all season.
“He’s pitching really good,” Yost said. “We’re just having trouble scoring runs for him and giving him an opportunity to get out there and relax a little bit with a cushion, and he hasn’t had that the whole second half.”
Capuano is 0-1 with a 4.85 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals this season. He is 4-2 with a 5.05 ERA in seven career starts against St. Louis.
Anthony Reyes (5-7, 5.03) looks to rebound from an awful outing when he starts for St. Louis. Reyes allowed seven runs and seven hits in 2 1-3 innings of a 13-1 loss to Arizona on Sept. 8.
Before that outing, Reyes allowed four hits in 6 1-3 scoreless innings to beat Pittsburgh 6-3 on Sept. 3.
The rookie right-hander has been wearing down, and La Russa skipped his turn in the rotation to give him some rest.
“He’s definitely on for the Milwaukee series,” La Russa said. “It was just a day to take advantage of the off-day and give him a little refresher.”
Reyes hasn’t lasted past the fourth inning in two of his last three starts, and has only pitched more than six innings in four of his 14 starts.
Reyes beat Milwaukee on Aug. 5, allowing three runs and five hits in five innings of a 4-3 victory. He is 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA in three career games against the Brewers