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Series Preview: Cardinals vs. Brewers

The Cardinals managed a split against a very good Marlins club to kick off their current homestand. Now they need to take advantage of a Milwaukee club that is down.

The Birds are 18-14 and in first place in the National League Central a game and a half ahead of Cincinnati. They stand at 8-8 at home -- but they're 6-4 since their awful opening week of the season. The Brewers are 13-17 and in fifth place in the division and are 5-12 on the road.

Milwaukee comes to town in the throes of a six-game losing streak. But the Brew Crew isn't having any trouble hitting the ball. At least not in the middle of the order. Ryan Braun, who recently signed a contract extension that will keep him with the Brewers through his prime, is batting .330 with 10 homers and 23 RBI. Prince Fielder, who is expected to hit the free agent market alongside Albert Pujols at the end of the season, is making a bid for a big payday with a .307 batting average, seven homers and 27 batted in.

The middle of the St. Louis lineup isn't bad, either. Matt Holliday (.415) and Lance Berkman (.390) are number one and two in hitting in the major leagues. Pujols improved to .252 with a three singles day Thursday against Florida. But he's still hitting for power with seven homers and 19 RBIs.

Pitching match-ups:

Game one is a battle of lefties with the Brewers sending veteran Randy Wolf (3-2, 2.39) against St. Louis youngster Jaime Garcia (3-0, 2.48). Wolf has been red hot in his last three outings, allowing 13 hits and two runs in 27 2/3 innings, while winning three of them. Garcia is 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA in five career starts against Milwaukee. He's struggled lately. Although he didn't factor into the decision, the Birds have lost his last two starts. He gave up 11 hits and eight runs -- six of them earned -- over 11 1/3 innings in those games.

Yovani Gallardo (2-2, 6.10) will take on Kyle Lohse (4-1, 2.44) in the middle game on Saturday. Gallardo pitched his best game of the season -- a two-hit, complete game shut out -- the first week of April against Atlanta. Since then, it's been decidedly downhill. He's given up 19 hits and 11 earned runs over his last 10 innings pitched. Lohse had won four games in a row prior to getting no decision in his last start, a six inning outing against Florida in which he gave up five earned runs on six hits over six innings.

In the finale, former Cardinals farm hand Chris Narveson (1-2, 4.64) will take on Kyle McClellan (4-0, 3.79). Narveson hasn't pitched well lately. He lasted only 2 1/3 innings April 25 against the Reds, giving up seven runs on eight hits. He pitched somewhat better in his next start, May 1 against the Astros. In that game he gave up four earned runs on seven hits over six innings. McClellan's ERA has doubled over his last three starts. In that stretch he gave up 11 runs on 21 hits over 17 2/3 innings.