Brewers-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

The Milwaukee Brewers have struggled of late, and things don't appear to be getting any easier by facing the Cardinals.

Probably the last team they want to see right now, these NL Central rivals open a three-game series in St. Louis on Friday night.

While most teams wouldn't want to play the Cardinals, who have won 12 of 15, the Brewers (16-23) enter this game having dropped 12 of 14 and were swept in a four-game set by St. Louis at home May 2-5. The Cardinals have benefited from a starting rotation that has put up 2.66 ERA in those 15 games, striking out 85 batters while walking only 19 and surrendering just six home runs.

St. Louis (26-14) has flourished against Milwaukee, winning six of seven games against the Brewers in 2013 and outscoring them 42-17. They pelted Milwaukee pitchers for 48 hits in the sweep earlier this month.

Among the pitchers the Cardinals battered was Wily Peralta (3-3, 5.40 ERA), who was tagged for six runs and 11 hits in the Cardinals' 6-5 victory over the Brewers on May 2. Peralta, though, may be happy to be at Busch Stadium since he has a 3.86 road ERA opposed to a 6.49 ERA at Miller Park.

"Like I told you guys before, he can be as good as anybody in this game," Brewers catcher Martin Maldonado told the Cardinals' official website.

Peralta, though, will have to deal with many players who have hit the Brewers hard this season. First baseman Allen Craig is hitting .345 against Milwaukee and catcher Yadier Molina, who is 10 of 27 while hitting safely in all seven games against the Brewers.

Much like the Cardinals, coming off a 5-2 loss to the New York Mets on Thursday afternoon, their starter, Jaime Garcia (4-2, 2.88), hopes a date with Milwaukee will help him recover from a bad start. Colorado reached Garcia for five runs and eight hits, including two home runs, in six innings of an 8-2 win over St. Louis on Sunday.

"He came out and looked pretty good at the beginning," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, "and had a couple things happen that didn't quite go his way.''

The loss snapped a three-start winning streak for Garcia, who had allowed one run in each of those outings. One of those victories came against the Brewers, whom he limited to one run in eight innings of the Cardinals' 10-1 win on May 5. The left-hander also shut out Milwaukee through seven innings on April 14, but did not receive a decision in an eventual 4-3, 10-inning loss.

Garcia will face a Brewers' offense that struggled against Francisco Liriano in a 7-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Thursday, striking out 10 times. Second baseman Rickie Weeks struck out three times on Thursday and is hitting just .135 over his last 12 games with 12 strikeouts.

While Milwaukee has only been outhit 135-128 during its current slump, it has been outscored 79-45. The Brewers went 2 for 20 with runners in scoring position dropping the last three games of their series with the Pirates and are 21 for 107 (.196) their last 14 games.

"I know we're going to be fine,'' Milwaukee center fielder Carlos Gomez said. "This is a problem that can be fixed because we have good players. It's tough now, though. It's embarrassing.''

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