The Milwaukee Brewers have built a seemingly insurmountable lead in the NL Central and could all but officially end the division race in the next nine days.
They play the second-place St. Louis Cardinals six times in that span and host them for a three-game series at Miller Park starting Tuesday night.
Milwaukee pushed its lead in the Central to a season-best 10 1/2 games over St. Louis after sweeping Chicago last weekend. The Brewers (81-54), whose lead is a franchise record as well, are a major league- best 27-5 since July 26.
With two games remaining in August, they can set a franchise record for wins in any month, set previously in June 1978 (21) and matched with Sunday’s 3-2 victory over the Cubs.
“The double-digit lead is hard to believe, it seemed like just the other day we were one back,” said winning pitcher Zack Greinke(notes), who pitched into the eighth. “We’re enjoying playing, but nothing’s locked up yet.”
The Brewers and Cardinals also play a three-game set in St. Louis from Sept. 5-7, giving Milwaukee the opportunity to effectively wrap up its first division title since 1982.
“You can’t give them any kind of hope,” Corey Hart(notes) told Milwaukee’s official website. “They’re a great team, and if they sense any kind of weakness in our side, then they’re going to pounce. We have to keep focused and keep going.”
Making things more difficult for the Cardinals is that the Brewers have been nearly unbeatable at home, going 50-16. They are 5-1 at Miller Park against St. Louis and have won eight of 12 overall between the two.
Hart has been key to that success. He’s hitting .325 against the Cardinals with three homers and 11 RBIs. The right fielder, who homered for a second straight game Sunday, has gone 13 for 26 in his last seven games as part of a current 11-game hitting streak.
The right-hander gave up two runs in six innings of a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Wednesday. He has a 1.74 ERA in his last three starts but a 5.68 ERA in three outings against the Cardinals.
The two faced each other Aug. 9, when the Brewers posted a 5-3, 12-inning victory. Jackson yielded two earned runs in six innings while Marcum was reached for three runs in six innings.
Albert Pujols(notes), who is 1 for 8 against Marcum, is expected to return to the lineup after being given the day off Sunday. Pujols is hitting just .196 in the season series, although he went 4 for 4 in the last game.
After being shut out the previous game, the Cardinals had 11 hits in a 7-4 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday to win three of four.
The Cardinals have lost 11 of 19.
Jackson has faced the Brewers twice since being acquired in a trade last month. He gave up 10 runs and tied a career high with 14 hits allowed in a 10-5 loss at Miller Park on Aug. 3.
Jackson up four runs - one earned - in six innings of an 8-4 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday.