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Series Preview: Cardinals @ Brewers

I don't think it's too much to say that the Cardinals must win two of three at Milwaukee or else their task of chasing down the Brewers is going to be significantly tougher.

The Brewers lead the Birds by 2 1/2 games, and the Redbirds don't want to see the deficit get any bigger. A sweep at the hands of Milwaukee could be disaster, putting the St. Louis nine a troubling 5 1/2 games out with a little bit more than 50 games to play.

It's not going to be an easy job. Milwaukee hasn't been very good on the road this season. But the Brew Crew is very tough at home where they have a 39-14 record. The Cardinals are 28-27 away from Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals will also be hamstrung by the fact that two thirds of there middle of the lineup thumpers are apparently dealing with some issues. Lance Berkman, despite a three-run homer Sunday night, has been fighting a right shoulder injury that has made it tough for him to take a full swing. Matt Holliday, who missed a couple of games in the last week with what was described as food poisoning like symptoms, hasn't been himself since the All-Star Game, hitting less than .250 with three RBIs and no homers. On the bright side, Albert Pujols seems to be locked back in after the broken bone near his wrist that threatened to derail his season. Since the All-Star Break Pujols is hitting .309 with four homers and 10 batted in. He's batting .385 over the last week.

The Brewers will be without Rickie Weeks who injured his ankle last week and could be out two weeks to a month and a half. All in all, that's a lot of weeks any way you look at it. But they still have a formidable line-up with leftfielder Ryan Braun batting .372 with five homers and nine batted in over the past two weeks. Prince Fielder was slumping a couple of weeks ago. But he's turned it around with a .450 batting average and a pair of homers over the last seven days.

The real story of this match-up, however, will be pitching. Both the Cardinals and Brewers have reworked their rotation to send their top starters to the hill.

It will be a match-up of aces in the first game with Chris Carpenter (6-7, 3.68) facing Jack Greinke (8-4, 4.50). Carpenter has won his last five decisions and the Cardinals have won six of his last seven starts. But he hasn't won at Milwaukee since 2009. Fielder is a .250 lifetime hitter against Carp. Braun has a .174 career mark against him. Greinke beat Carpenter during a June 11 match-up. He's 4-2 against the Cardinals in his career with a 4.10 ERA.

Jaime Garcia (10-5, 3.14) will face Shaun Marcum (10-3, 3.33) in the second game of the set. Garcia, in his most recent start against Milwaukee, threw two innings of eight hit ball to earn a win. He struck out eight and walked one. He's 3-2 with a 3.00 ERA against the Brewers in his career. Marcum is 5-1 this season with a 4.23 ERA at home and is 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in his career against the Redbirds.

Cardinals newcomer Edwin Jackson (8-7, 3.78) will start the finale for the Cardinals against Randy Wolf (7-8, 3.44). Jackson won his Cardinals debut with a seven inning performance against the Cubs. He's 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA lifetime against Milwaukee. Wolf is 5-7 in his career against the Cardinals with a 3.79 ERA. He gave up six earned runs on seven hits over five innings in his last start against St. Louis.