Can the Brewers put a damper on the Cardinals’ wildcard hopes this weekend?
The chances of Cardinal Devil Magic making the race in the NL Central interesting are still remote, of course, but St. Louis does come into the weekend just 2.5 games behind the second wildcard spot, thanks to the San Diego Padres’ late-season slide and the Cincinnati Reds cooling off a bit.
With that said, it probably behooves the Brewers to take care of business, even if these games don’t mean much and they’re just trying to finish the year without any serious injuries. Because when you think about it, wouldn’t it be a Very Cardinals Thing to steal a win over the Dodgers or Giants in the NL Wildcard game and then make a deep postseason run despite being a fairly mediocre team?
It’s been a couple of weeks since the last time we saw the Cardinals, but their lineup still basically comes down to three bats: Paul Goldschmidt, Tyler O’Neill and Nolan Arenado.
Goldschmidt, one of the most notorious Brewer Killers of all time, is leading the team in fWAR with a .287/.355/.493 line with 24 home runs and a 130 wRC+, putting him on pace for his best (full) season as a Cardinal in his age-33 season.
Arenado hasn’t been quite the impact bat some people who don’t look too closely at park factors thought he might be, but his still-excellent defense at third base combined with an above-average bat has him at 3.3 fWAR heading into the final month. He’s currently hitting .256/.313/.492 with a 114 wRC+ with a team-leading 27 home runs.
O’Neill has flown a bit under the radar thanks to those two big names, but he’s putting together a breakout season after finally getting a chance to be a full-time player in his age-26 season. He enters the weekend hitting .273/.343/.503 with 21 home runs and 20 doubles and a 129 wRC+ while also providing solid outfield defense and capping it all off by stealing 10 bases.
The Probable Pitchers
Friday, 7:10 p.m. CDT – Adam Wainwright vs. Freddy Peralta
Peralta comes off the Injured List after straining his shoulder while batting in his last appearance, which was also against St. Louis. The seemingly ageless Wainwright now has his ERA under 3.00 after a great run in the month of August, putting up a 1.43 ERA in 6 starts. The caveat here is he did face the Pirates three times, but the still-impressive feat was keeping the Bucs scoreless through 24 innings in those outings (including a 2-hit complete game shutout on August 11th). The last time Wainwright gave up a run, it was to the Brewers — Milwaukee scored on him twice in 6 innings while he scattered 9 hits on August 17 in a game the Brewers won 2-0 as Corbin Burnes outdueled him.
Saturday, 6:10 p.m. CDT – Kwang Hyun Kim vs. Adrian Houser
The left-handed Kim also has had an excellent season on the mound, entering the weekend with a 3.23 ERA in 21 appearances, 20 of them being starts. Despite throwing nothing cracking 90 mph, Kim has managed to keep opponents from hitting the ball hard all year, ranking in the top third in the league in limiting hard-hit percentage and average exit velocity allowed. The Brewers haven’t faced him since B.A. (Before Adames) — he limited them to just 1 run on 5 hits in 5.1 innings back on May 11th. Kim did miss some time in the last month with elbow inflammation and hasn’t pitched deep into games since returning as the Cardinals have tried to ease him back into things. He threw 4 innings in his last start against Pittsburgh, allowing 1 run on 3 hits.
Sunday, 1:10 p.m. CDT – Jon Lester vs. Corbin Burnes
The 37-year-old Lester was basically acquired to soak up innings for the Cardinals, even though he hasn’t been very good this year and the Cardinals had younger arms they could have taken a look at down the stretch. The Brewers chased him after just 4.1 innings in his last outing against them on August 19th, after he gave up 4 runs on 6 hits and 3 walks and failed to strike out a batter. He is coming off a good start against Cincinnati — an important effort considering the Cardinals are chasing the Reds for a wildcard spot — in which he allowed just 1 run on a single hit in 6.1 innings. Lester currently ranks as one of the worst pitchers in the league when it comes to missing bats, with a K% in the 3rd percentile and whiff percentage in the 8th percentile. Corbin Burnes, meanwhile, is almost exactly the opposite.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant