Brewers-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

The St. Louis Cardinals have quickly made up ground in the NL wild-card race this weekend.

Kyle Lohse takes the mound going for his 12th win Sunday night as he tries to help the Cardinals complete their first three-game home sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers in nine years.

While it has been overshadowed somewhat by Cincinnati's remarkable run over the last month, St. Louis (58-49) has quietly won 11 of 15, including four of its last five.

The Cardinals have outscored the Brewers 15-4 in the first two games of this series. Adam Wainwright pitched a five-hitter in Saturday's 6-1 win, while Carlos Beltran and Jon Jay homered and Yadier Molina - playing with a sprained thumb - hit a two-run single to cap a four-run third inning.

St. Louis was 4 1/2 games back of Pittsburgh for the second wild-card spot before Friday's games, but has made up two games so far this weekend with the Pirates dropping their first two against the Reds.

"We're going to continue to go out there and try to win our game and execute at the plate and execute at the mound," Wainwright told the Cardinals' official website. "Those other guys, if they want to come back to us, that's great. But we'll just try to keep winning and we'll see what happens."

St. Louis continues to play well at home, having won five straight and 14 of 17 there. The Cardinals have scored six runs or more in six of their last eight at Busch Stadium.

They haven't swept a three-game home series against the Brewers since March 31-April 3, 2003, but Milwaukee (48-58) has dropped eight straight on the road - its longest losing streak away from Miller Park since a nine-game skid in May 2008. The Brewers have given up six runs or more in each of their last five road games.

If that trend continues, it should be plenty of support for Lohse (11-2, 2.91 ERA), who has allowed more than three runs in only one of his 10 home starts this year. He's 3-0 with a 2.22 ERA in his last four outings in St. Louis.

The right-hander had a seven-game overall streak of allowing two runs or fewer end Tuesday, when he surrendered five runs in six innings of an 11-6 win at Colorado.

"I think Kyle pitched better than the numbers said," said outfielder Matt Holliday, who is batting .408 over his last 42 games. "But he's pitched great all season. We were finally able to give him a little bit of a cushion and get him a win."

Lohse has won his last two starts against the Brewers, giving up three runs and two homers in six innings of a 7-3 home victory April 28.

Milwaukee's Aramis Ramirez has missed the last two games with a sore wrist, and it's uncertain if he'll be back in the lineup Sunday. He is 9 for 20 with two homers and three doubles against Lohse.

The Brewers will hand the ball to Marco Estrada, who remains winless in 12 starts this season. Estrada (0-4, 4.34) was in line for a victory when he departed Monday after giving up three runs - two earned - in seven innings against Houston, but the bullpen blew the lead in a game the Brewers eventually won 8-7.

The right-hander started opposite Lohse in April, giving up five runs and two homers in six innings and taking the loss.

Molina is 5 for 7 with a home run against Estrada.

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