There are 47 games left for the
Cardinals but, in essence, the pennant race starts Tuesday night in
The Milwaukee Brewers are the opponents and the Brewers come to town for a three-game series leading the Cardinals by three games in the National League Central Division.
In the next 28 games,
"Every game we play against them the rest of the year is the most important one," said left fielder Matt Holliday.
"They're playing so well (11 victories in their last 12 games). They don't seem to be losing to a lot of other teams. If we're going to gain ground, it looks like we're going to have to beat them ourselves."
"It's pivotal," right fielder Lance Berkman said of the series. "Because we're only going to get so many cracks at them, we need to play well against them.
"If they win two out of three, or all three of them, we really could have a pretty bad situation."
From a four-team race a
couple of weeks ago, the Central contending field seems to have narrowed.
"It's only a two-team race now, and the thing is, that we've got them," infielder Ryan Theriot said. "We've got a bunch of games against them.
"We've just got to win four more games than they do. That makes it easy."
The playing field may be
more even for RHP Edwin Jackson as he faces
The Cardinals are likely to move RHP Chris Carpenter up a day to Thursday so that he would be pitching on his normal four days of rest. If that happens, either RHP Jake Westbrook or RHP Kyle Lohse would be moved back a couple of days with the other pitching on Wednesday against the Brewers.
The Cardinals' bullpen, used often lately as the starters have staggered, compiled a 1.42 in 25 1/3 innings over seven games on the recent 5-2 trip. Relievers were 4-0 on the swing with RHPs Mitchell Boggs and Kyle McClellan gaining two victories apiece.
1B Albert Pujols, who has had 11 home runs in his last 28 games, has hiked his average to a season-high .283 in the midst of a four-game hitting streak in which he is 8-for-18. With 435 career home runs, he took over 39th place on the all-time list.
3B David Freese, who sustained a mild concussion when he was hit on the left side of the helmet by a pitch last Thursday, should be available to play on Tuesday. Freese missed three games and part of another.
BY THE NUMBERS: 6 - Previous four-game winning streaks for the Cardinals, who have another one working now. They have yet to win five straight this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You give a little to get a lot."
- INF Ryan Theriot, who has had to sacrifice playing time, but hopes to get into his first World Series.
3B David Freese (mild concussion, head contusion) left the Aug. 4 game, and he didn't play Aug. 5-7. He was given the go-ahead by both the Cardinals' medical staff and Major League Baseball to resume playing Aug. 9.
INF Nick Punto (strained left oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list July 29.
RHP Eduardo Sanchez (mild right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13. He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Springfield on July 7 but had renewed soreness soon after and was shut down until late August or early September. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 31.
OF Allen Craig (broken right kneecap) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 8. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Memphis on July 23 and was expected to return the second week of August.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season.
Aug. 9 vs. BREWERS: Edwin Jackson (8-8, 4.11) vs. Shaun Marcum (11-3, 3.58) 7:15
p.m. CDT (FOX Sports