The St. Louis Cardinals' best chance for help in their battle with the Pittsburgh Pirates for the National League Central Division crown likely will come this weekend.
The Pirates, who just wiped their feet on the Boston Red Sox, will take on the Milwaukee Brewers for a three-game set starting Friday. The Brew Crew gave the Cardinals all they could handle, eventually losing two of three games after an extra inning affair Thursday night. But Milwaukee has had Pittsburgh's number this season, winning 11 of the teams' 16 meetings so far this season.
The Brewers ought to be plenty motivated -- at least at the start of the series -- because they can't really afford to lose any more games. They're 3 1/2 games out of the last wildcard spot with nine games left to play. So... if they win the first game of the set, the Brewers might sense some momentum and get something done against the Pirates. If they lose the first game, the sense might be that their goose is cooked and Milwaukee will sleepwalk through the remaining tilts.
Pittsburgh plays no other team with post season potential the rest of the year. So it would be nice if the Cardinals can take at least two of three from the Cincinnati Reds during their last home series while the Brewers take at least two of three from Pittsburgh.
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The Redbirds lost three of four games against the Reds during their previous meeting in Cincinnati. But St. Louis is 10-6 against the Reds overall and over the past several years the Cardinals have absolutely dominated Cincinnati at Busch Stadium.
John Lackey, supposedly feeling better after struggling through a dead arm period, will take the hill for the Cardinals Friday. He's 13-9 with a 3.97 ERA for the season. The Reds will counter with lefty David Holmberg who is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA.
On Saturday, the Cardinals have surprisingly turned to Michael Wacha who was suddenly shelved after his second start following a shoulder injury that sidelined him since June. Wacha (5-6, 3.14) will take on young Cincinnati shoplifter Mike Leake who is 11-12 with a 3.65 ERA. Leake has been complaining lately of a dead arm and in his last start he struggled with his control and was rocked.
Lance Lynn will go for his 16th win of the year Sunday in the Cardinals' home finale. Lynn has a 2.68 record and nine losses against him. He hasn't had much offensive support lately. Lynn's record could be much better with even a little bit of help. He'll face off against Alfredo Simon who is 14-10 with a 3.35 ERA.