St. Louis (81-77) lost 9-4 to Milwaukee in the series opener Thursday as Jason Marquis gave up six runs over two innings en route to his NL-worst 16th loss.
“I wish I came out with a better approach and got ahead of hitters and made better pitches, but I didn’t,” Marquis said. “It was one of those nights.”
Earlier on Thursday, Houston won its ninth in a row, defeating Pittsburgh 3-0 in a game delayed nearly 3 1/2 hours by rain at the start. About an hour before this contest gets underway, the Astros are scheduled to meet Atlanta in the start of a three-game series at Turner Field.
Heading into play on Sept. 20, the Cardinals led the Astros by 8 1/2 games before going on a seven-game slide, which ended Tuesday when Albert Pujols hit a go-ahead three-run homer with two out in the eighth inning of a 4-2 win over NL West-leader San Diego.
St. Louis has not been out of first place since June 8, when it was 35-24 and one-half game behind Cincinnati.
“We had a really healthy lead and we’ve got it down to a half-game, and that’s painful,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Thursday. “But it’s still in our grasp.”
Weaver (4-4, 5.21 ERA) will make his seventh start at Busch Stadium, where he is 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA and .302 opponent batting average since being acquired July 5 from the Los Angeles Angels. He’s given up more than five runs five times while allowing more than five hits on four occasions.
Since his last loss Sept. 2 against Pittsburgh, Weaver has gone 2-0 with a 4.91 ERA overall, and St. Louis has gone 3-1 in those four starts. In a 7-3 loss to Houston on Sunday, the right-hander gave up three runs and seven hits over six innings.
Weaver won his only start this season against the Brewers, limiting them to two runs and five hits over six innings of a 12-2 victory on Sept. 19.
Chris Capuano (11-11, 3.87) closes out a forgettable second half as he makes his final start of the year for the Brewers.
The left-hander was 10-4 with a 3.21 ERA in the first half of the season, and was named to his first All-Star team. Since the break, though, he’s 1-7 with a 4.84 ERA.
His only win in that span came Aug. 22 against Colorado. In his last five starts, he’s 0-3 with a 5.75 ERA. Capuano didn’t get a decision last Saturday in a 10-8 win over San Francisco, but did give up a season-high seven runs and 11 hits—including Barry Bonds’ NL-record 734th homer—in 5 1-3 innings.
“I was catching a lot of plate with my pitches, and guys were hacking and they capitalized,” Capuano said. “It was one of those nights where I couldn’t really get the ball where I wanted.”
Capuano is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals this season. The loss came on Aug. 6 in St. Louis.
Shortstop Bill Hall homered for the second straight game in Thursday’s win, and leads Milwaukee with 34. He’s hitting .536 (15-for-28) with three homers, nine RBI and 13 runs in his last eight games.
“A lot of people have a lot of interest in this series, especially the Houston Astros,” Hall said. “It’s fun to come in here and have something on the line.”