For the Milwaukee Brewers to avoid their first sweep at home in more than a year, they’ll need one of their top pitchers to beat a division rival for the first time at Miller Park.
The St. Louis Cardinals, meanwhile, want to creep closer to the NL Central leaders and make things even more interesting as the final month of the season gets under way.
St. Louis (72-64) ensured a series win over the best home team in the majors with an 8-3 victory Wednesday. Starting pitcher Jake Westbrook(notes) helped his own cause with a grand slam, his first career homer.
The Cardinals have won five of six to move within 8 1/2 games of the Brewers (81-56). Following this contest, the teams will play their final three games of the season series starting Monday at Busch Stadium.
“Our team needs to generate a lot of wins,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. “If we win a lot of games, a couple of weeks from now, we can get excited.”
The Brewers, now 50-18 at home, haven’t been swept in Wisconsin since Aug. 24-26, 2010, by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Still, Brewers slugger Prince Fielder(notes) denied that the possibility of a St. Louis sweep weighs heavily on his mind.
“We still have to win games once they leave. We still have to play other teams. It’s not too dramatic as far as they sweep us,” Fielder said. “It’s not good for us. (But) it’s not the end of the world.”
Fielder has homered twice in 14 games versus the Cardinals this season, with both longballs coming at home. However, he’s failed to go deep in any of the last eight meetings.
While Milwaukee is 13-4 at Miller Park when Fielder homers, the key to this game could be Gallardo (15-8, 3.37 ERA).
The right-hander is 9-1 with a 2.51 ERA at home this year. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 5.58 ERA in five career home starts versus the Cardinals, as the Brewers have backed him with a total of three runs over 30 2-3 innings.
Should Gallardo get the victory Thursday, he would tie teammate Zack Greinke(notes), Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee(notes) and Clayton Kershaw(notes) of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the major league lead with 10 home wins.
Gallardo is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts against the Cards in 2011, with both games played in St. Louis. He held them to one hit over eight innings of a 4-0 victory May 7.
Pujols took over the NL lead with his 32nd homer Wednesday. The three-time league MVP has 17 homers in 80 games at Miller Park, but hasn’t homered in consecutive games there since Sept. 8 and 9, 2009.
The Cardinals will give Brandon Dickson(notes) (0-0, 0.00) his first major league start in the series finale. The right-hander surrendered a total of two hits over four innings during two scoreless relief appearances in July.
Dickson was 8-9 with a 3.73 ERA this season for Triple-A Memphis. In 154 1-3 innings, he fanned 122 while walking only 32.