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Series Preview: Cardinals vs. Brewers

The Cardinals have had a lot of trouble with the Brewers over the last few years. But this isn't exactly the same Brew Crew.

Milwaukee, a contender for the last four or five seasons, is an also ran this year. The Brewers are eight games under .500 and 8 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central. But they've been hot lately, winning seven out of their last 10 games, while the Cardinals have gone 5-5.

The Brewers have used a balance of good pitching and a high-powered offense in recent years to slug their way to the top of the standings. Both the pitching and the offense have let them down in 2010. Yovani Gallardo is the only regular Milwaukee starter with an ERA below 4.43, meanwhile Prince Fielder is hitting a disappointing .260.

What the Brewers offense can still do is hit for power. Corey Hart is tied with Albert Pujols for the NL lead in homers with 18 while Fielder is close behind with 17.

The Brewers are 17-22 on the road this year while the Cardinals are 25-13 at Busch Stadium. Milwaukee is 13-18 against Central Division foes while St. Louis is 17-13.

Pitching matchups:

Makeshift starter Blake Hawksworth (2-4, 5.11) gets the start Thursday while the Brewers counter with their off-season free agent splurge, Randy Wolf(5-7, 4.92). Hawksworth was surprisingly brilliant Saturday in Kansas City, pitching the Birds to their only win in the I-70 Series. Wolf is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in his last three starts but he only won one game in all of June. He's pitched twice against the Cardinals this year and is 0-1 with a 4.73 ERA.

In game two of the series, the Bids will send Jamie Garcia (7-4, 2.47) to the hill against former St. Louis farmhand Chris Narveson(7-4, 5.17). Garcia had his worst start of the season Sunday in Kansas City when he couldn't make it out of the third inning. Still, if he would have made one more good pitch things could have been very different. He walked two with two outs in the second and then gave up a homer to ruin his day. Besides that, he didn't pitch all that bad. Narveson essentially took new Cardinals hurler Jeff Suppan's spot in the Milwaukee rotation. Narveson hasn't pitched that great, but he has been the beneficiary of good run support. I bet Garcia wishes he could say the same.

Chris Carpenter(9-1, 2.70) is scheduled to start Saturday but may be held out of the game if a bruise to his forearm, suffered when the first hitter of his last start lined a ball off his pitching arm, isn't sufficiently healed. Bullpenner Manny Parra (2-5, 4.12) gets the start for Milwaukee. Only seven of his 24 appearances have been starts.

The marquee pitching matchup comes Sunday when Cardinals co-ace Adam Wainwright (11-5, 2.34) faces Yovani Gallardo(8-3, 2.56). Wainwright had his worst start of the season against Toronto, lasting only four innings. But he rebounded in his last outing against Arizona. Gallardo had his one of his worst outings in his last start. He allowed four runs and seven hits, still he's 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in his last three turns through the rotation.