They should at least feel good about their chances Tuesday night.
St. Louis has rocked Yovani Gallardo(notes) through the years - never more so than in an easy win last week - and they’ll be desperate to come out swinging as this three-game set continues at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals (74-67) gave themselves some hope to catch the Brewers after finishing off a three-game sweep in Milwaukee on Sept. 1, pulling within 7 1/2 games with a month still to play.
That optimism took a hit over the weekend - they fell 9 1/2 back after losing two of three to Cincinnati while the Brewers (85-57) swept Houston - and it suffered another significant blow Monday. Randy Wolf(notes) stymied St. Louis for eight innings, Ryan Braun(notes) and Nyjer Morgan(notes) went deep and Milwaukee lengthened its lead to 10 1/2 games with a 4-1 win.
“You think we’re not trying?” Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols(notes) told the team’s official website. “We’re trying to do the best we can to hopefully not hand the Central division to these guys. Just fight to the end the same way we did in April and the last 140 games. It is what it is. They’re playing well.”
Pujols went 1 for 4 on Monday, but he and his teammates should feel a lot better about their offensive prospects Tuesday.
Gallardo (15-9, 3.68 ERA) is 1-6 with a 5.79 ERA in 10 career starts versus St. Louis, and was lit up for eight runs in 4 2-3 innings of an 8-4 loss Thursday.
All eight runs scored via the long ball, as Gallardo gave up a career-high four homers including two to Pujols, who’s 12 for 25 against Gallardo and has taken him deep four times.
“You give it all you’ve got, try everything to get the ball down,” Gallardo told the Brewers’ official website. “It just wasn’t consistent. I was able to make a couple good pitches, and then fall out of rhythm and the ball was up again.”
Gallardo is also 0-2 with an 11.17 ERA in his last two starts against St. Louis, allowing six homers in 9 2-3 innings. He’s 5-1 with a 1.26 ERA in seven other starts since July 19, surrendering two homers in 50 innings.
Gallardo should especially be paying attention when Rafael Furcal(notes) steps up in the bottom of the first. The Cardinals’ leadoff man, who has six homers this season, has taken Gallardo deep in the first inning in both of the righty’s starts versus St. Louis since the All-Star break.
If Furcal can do that again Tuesday, he’ll give Kyle Lohse(notes) (12-8, 3.72) more support than he’s had in 2011 against Milwaukee. The Cardinals haven’t scored in either of Lohse’s starts against the Brewers, dooming him to two losses despite a 3.46 ERA.
They only came away with one hit in one of those, when Gallardo proved he’s capable of handling St. Louis with eight dominant innings in a 4-0 road win May 7.
Lohse has a 5.71 ERA since July, and hasn’t pitched since giving up four runs - two earned - over five innings of a 7-4 victory over Pittsburgh on Aug. 28.
“I know what I’ve been through the last two years, so, yeah, maybe fatigue could be a problem,” said Lohse, whose 6.15 post-break ERA from 2009-10 was third-worst in the majors. “But I feel like I’ve come into every start strong.”
Braun, who leads the NL with a .999 OPS, is 9 for 27 with two homers and three doubles off Lohse.