The stakes in the National League Central Division get higher starting this weekend as the Milwaukee Brewers visit the St. Louis Cardinals for a three-game series.
The Cardinals saw their lead over Milwaukee sliced to a half-game after losing 8-6 to the Colorado Rockies in Denver on Thursday.St. Louis is 10-3 in their last 13 games, including a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees last weekend. Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol wants his team to remain focused heading into the much-anticipated series against the Brewers.
"I don't believe in big series," said Marmol. "This was a big series. The Yankees one was a big series. This one is no different. Milwaukee's coming to town. Our goal is to beat them."
The Brewers are riding high after sweeping a brief two-game set against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays.
Milwaukee shortstop Willy Adames is hoping his team can carry that momentum into this weekend's series.
"Obviously we are going to play some really good teams this last month and a half, and we know we have to be better," said Adames. "That's what we're trying to do now. We're going to go to St. Louis and try to play at our highest level and try to win the series."
Infielder Keston Hiura is batting .326 (15-for-46) with five homers and eight RBIs over his last 16 games for Milwaukee, which is 3-5 this month.
The Brewers will send left-hander Eric Lauer (8-3, 3.59 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. He won his second straight start on Aug. 5, allowing one run over seven innings against the Cincinnati Reds.
Lauer, 27, is 2-2 with a 6.93 ERA in six career games (five starts) against St. Louis, including 1-1 with a 5.73 ERA in two starts this season.
Nolan Arenado is 5-for-17 with a home run against Lauer, who has posted a 2.65 ERA in nine starts this season at American Family Field compared with a 4.47 mark in 11 road games.
St. Louis will counter with left-hander Jordan Montgomery (4-3, 3.53), who is making his second start with the team since being acquired from the New York Yankees at the trade deadline.
Montgomery, 29, tossed five scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Yankees on Saturday before exiting for precautionary reasons due to cramping.
"It's tough to throw against a team you just left. For him to do what he did was pretty special," Marmol said. "He had nine groundball outs. A really good job by Jordan."
Montgomery is facing Milwaukee for the first time since July 7, 2017, when he allowed two runs over 4 1/3 innings as a member of the Yankees.
The Cardinals have received a spark from outfielder Lars Nootbaar, who is hitting .348 (23-for-66) in his last 25 games.
Nootbaar, who played right field and drew two walks while batting leadoff on Thursday, is also known for keeping things light during the long season.
"He's a gamer, he's just a great dude, great person," said Cardinals outfielder Dylan Carlson. "Just someone you need in a clubhouse, honestly."
--Field Level Media