J.J. Hardy is primarily known as a defense-first player for the Milwaukee Brewers. But the shortstop looks to continue his torrid hitting as the Brewers attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park on Wednesday afternoon.
Hardy has just 15 errors in 184 games over three seasons and is hitting just .252 in his career. The 24-year-old, though, has been a key offensive contributor in helping the Brewers (17-9) enjoy their best start since going 20-6 in 1987.
He has a career-high 12-game hitting streak after going 4-for-5 in Tuesday’s 12-2 rout, triggering a seven-run sixth with a two-run double.
“Hopefully we can stay under the radar a little bit longer and get some wins,” Hardy told the Brewers’ official Web site. “Maybe some guys will take us lightly. But I’m sure people are starting to notice.”
It was the second career four-hit game for Hardy, who is batting .385 (20-for-52) with five homers and 15 RBIs during his hitting streak and .306 overall. In 24 games, Hardy has already exceeded the totals from his 2006 season - which was reduced to 35 games due to a broken ankle - in runs (15), hits (33), homers (6) and RBIs (19).
The Brewers have not been nine games above .500 since they were 15-6 on April 24, 1998.
Chris Capuano (4-0, 3.21 ERA) gets the chance to lead the Brewers to their first three-game sweep of the Cardinals since Sept. 13-15, 1999. He also is trying to become the first Milwaukee starting pitcher to go 5-0 since Bill Wegman won his first six decisions in 1994.
Capuano labored in winning his fourth consecutive start Friday at Houston, giving up five hits and issuing three walks over six innings. But he allowed only one run before the Brewers rallied for four seventh-inning runs in a 4-1 victory.
“Today was his best start because he had his worst stuff and he made it work,” Brewers manager Ned Yost told the team’s official Web site. “You’re not going to have your great stuff every night, but you’ve got to go out and find a way to compete with it, and he did.”
The left-hander is 4-3 with a 5.43 ERA in nine lifetime starts versus the Cardinals.
Albert Pujols has dominated Capuano, going 12-for-21 (.571) with three homers and two doubles. He went 2-for-4 in Tuesday’s loss, and is hitting .368 (14-for-38) with two homers during a 10-game hitting streak.
The Cardinals (10-15), though, have lost four straight games and 10 of their last 14. They’ve been outscored 19-3 in the first two games of this series, which comes after reliever Josh Hancock died in a car accident early Sunday morning.
“We’re not doing what we’re supposed to do, which is respect Josh,” manager Tony La Russa said.
Anthony Reyes (0-4, 5.73) is hoping for any kind of run support as he again tries for his first victory of 2007. The right-hander started strong with five strikeouts in the first three innings Friday against the Chicago Cubs, but allowed a pair of fourth-inning home runs in a 5-3 loss.
Reyes has allowed at least three runs in each of his four starts, but the Cardinals have scored just two total runs while he’s been in the game. He went 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA in three starts against Milwaukee last season, allowing nine runs and 15 hits - four of them homers - in 11 innings.
Brewers right fielder Geoff Jenkins, who homered and had four hits Tuesday, is 4-for-9 with three homers lifetime against Reyes. Jenkins is also 13-for-30 (.433) in his last eight games.
The Cardinals have not been swept in a three-game series at Milwaukee since June 16-18, 1997.