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Who's on Tap?:
May 9th: Manny Parra (1-2, 5.86 ERA) vs. Todd Wellemeyer (3-1, 4.07 ERA)
May 10th: Ben Sheets (4-0, 2.29 ERA) vs. Joel Pineiro (2-2, 4.33 ERA)
May 11th: Jeff Suppan (1-2, 5.22 ERA) vs. Braden Looper (5-1, 3.95 ERA)
May 12th: Dave Bush (0-4, 6.98 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (3-1, 2.25 ERA)
Who Should You Watch?:
You can't not watch Albert Pujols when the Cardinals are in town, so that's a no brainer, but you'll want to keep an eye on Skip Schumaker as well. Schumaker is 9/20 this year against Milwaukee, walking three times, while knocking in four with one homerun. His lead off spot will be the most important spot for the Cardinals in this series, considering the Brewers recent command problems. And for Cornfed, you can watch Ryan Ludwick when he plays tonight, considering it's the only night he will play. LaRussa has a pretty decent group of guys who work exceptionally well in platoon situations. Ludwick is awful against righties and will get his only shot tonight to make an impact, likely will since Parra is a lefty.
As for the Brewers, it's extremely hard to determine who will have an impact if anyone will. Ben Sheets will definitely be worth checking out, considering the Brewers woes. If he pitches well and the Brewers continue to nose dive, the Crew will have an opportunity to replenish their minors with young promising prospects and prepare for next year after a trade. But if Sheets pitches well, he could turn this team around and send it on a run. It's a delicate balance on a such a young team. On the offensive side of things, Mike Cameron makes his Miller Park debut and might enjoy a short porch in left. Cameron has homered three times in just 9 games, but has also struck out 13 times, which means it's hit or miss. It's sad to say, but he'll probably surpass Braun in walks by the end of this series. He has five, while Braun has seven. If he can get on and get into the pitcher's head, the Brewers could break out of their offensive funk.
Keys to Victory:
The Cardinals have been playing outstanding baseball lately, winning three of their last four series. The key to this performance has been the top of the lineup. While the Cardinals pitching isn't as impressive as it was in the first three weeks of baseball, the battles at the plate have been probably some of the best in the league. The Cardinals are only one percentage point behind the NL lead in OBP and have an incredible patience numbers (OBP - Average) at 90. Brewers starters have a tendency to dilly dally around the plate, which is to the advantage of a well disciplined squad. So walks and setting the table for Pujols and Ankiel will be important.
The Brewers need to follow the red Cardinals suit. They've recently improved their ability to battle at the plate, but have yet to finish with walks. Instead they find themselves swinging through pitches in the dirt and off the plate. But walks aren't as important as going with pitches. Teams in the league have the Brewers' hitters all pinned as pull hitters and have been taking advantage at monstrous clips, leading to a team average of .239. While the pitching will struggle again this series, they can be just as easily picked up by a more motivated squad at the plate.
I feel so pessimistic. This team is playing awful, and until I see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel, it's hard to give the Brewers more than one victory this series. The Brewers are 2-3 against the Cardinals this season, but both wins were comeback wins. A part of me wants them to lose the next two though. Steve 'Sparky' Phifer of AM1250 WSSP in Milwaukee has currently been awake for some 60 hours after he vowed not to sleep until the Brewers win another game. I hope he realizes he's in for a bit of a health problem. Anyways, the Brewers' offense will likely explode tonight against Wellemeyer and take a back seat for the remainder of the series. The Brewers win tonight by a minor margin, battle tomorrow in a low scoring affair with Sheets in the mound only to lose (that one's a toss up) and will fall apart on Sunday and Monday, giving the Cardinals the series 3-1.