The St. Louis Cardinals are surging and getting themselves back in the race in the NL Central where the Milwaukee Brewers now need to keep their eyes on both the Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs in hopes of making a push. This series—including Saturday’s showdown—will have major implications on a tight NL Central race that should continue well into the season’s final month.
BETCRIS offers play-by-play betting odds for live sporting events every day! The user-friendly wagering interface on your smartphone provides an easy way to place bets on the go. Mobile betting lines are updated by the minute, so click here to start gambling on thrilling live action at BETCRIS!
ESPN Sunday Night Baseball– Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Date and Time:Saturday, August 18, 2018, 7:15 p.m. ET
Location:Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
2018 MLB Betting Odds at BETCRIS:Check Back Later
Brewers vs. Cardinals 2018 MLB TV Coverage:FS1
With Carlos Martinez going to the bullpen and Adam Wainwright injured with his best days behind him, the ace of the Cardinals staff defaults to Miles Mikolas. He gets the start on Saturday for the Red Birds opposite the Brewers’ southpaw Wade Miley.
Mikolas may not have the most electric stuff in the Majors, but he’s been one of the most reliable arms all season long. Even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he’s still giving the Cardinals a chance, not allowing more than four runs in any start all year long. He’s one of only four qualified starters who can say that.
The All-Star right-hander is 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA and 1.051 WHIP in 151.1 innings over 24 starts as he gives St. Louis both quality and quantity most times out.
The 29-year old has been at his absolute best at home where he has pitched to a 2.29 ERA and 2-0 in his first three starts against the Brewers this year. He has allowed 10 combined runs against Milwaukee in three starts, but his first two starts came in April when he was still adjusting. Since then, he went six innings and allowed only two runs against the Brew Crew in his only start.
As for Miley, the Brewer’ left-hander has been surprisingly good in eight starts, pitching to a 2-1 record with a 2.23 ERA and 1.240 WHIP. He’s only struck out 4.9 per nine innings, however, and has a 4.2 walk rate. His 1.16 strikeout to walk ratio makes his ERA unlikely to stay that low. After all, he has a 4.20 FIP.
Of course, Mikolas is also not a big strikeout arm, but he’s been much better at limiting free passes, giving him a noticeable edge in this matchup over Miley.
Back to the veteran southpaw, this will be his first start of the year against the Cardinals, but in his career, he’s 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA and 1.820 WHIP in five starts against the Red Birds.
Building a Case for MVP
Despite poor defense at third, Matt Carpenter has been worth 5.3 rWAR due to his red-hot bat. The Cardinals’ corner infielder is back to playing primarily at first, but he’s been slugging since mid-May regardless of position.
On the year, the 32-year old is mashing to the tune of a .277/.389/.592 slash line, giving him a league leading .981 OPS along with his NL top 33 homers. The numbers are all the more staggering when you consider he was batting .140 on May 15. Since then, he’s batting .328 with 30 home runs.
Carpenter is setting the stage for the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals hitters and is central to the team’s second half run. He’s got a .320/.439/.790 slash line since the break with 14 home his homers. In that same time, the team is 17-9.
Getting Back to the Cardinal Way
It’s been a couple years since the Cardinals were in the postseason and poor defense and a lackluster bullpen were trademarks of those underachieving teams. The same was true of the Cardinals in the first half.
Right before the break, the Cardinals fired Mike Matheny and revamped the bullpen and the defense. At the trade-deadline, they traded Tommy Pham to the Rays and put Dexter Fowler on the DL. That opened up the outfield for Harrison Bader to play and allowed Jose Martinez to move off first where he was abysmal defensively.
With Martinez off first, Matt Carpenter could shift back to first and given third base to a better defender like Jedd Gyorko. Of course, Martinez is not a great outfielder and Paul DeJong’s defense at short still leaves plenty to be desired, but the team is better on defense than it was and that’s an improvement.
Another improvement has come in the bullpen where the Cardinals parted ways with Greg Holland and Tyler Lyons. Other underperforming arms like Brett Cecil, Luke Gregerson and Matthew Bowman have been cleared of the 25-man roster by injury or demotion, opening up younger, better arms like Austin Gomber, Daniel Poncedeleon Dakota Hudson and Tyler Webb to set up for Bud Norris and Jordan Hicks in the back end.
Hitting with Consistency
The Brewers—as a team—haven been shut-out 10 times. That’s nearly three times as many as the Cardinals and is tied with the Orioles and more than other terrible teams like the Royals and Marlins.
Milwaukee Brewers has scored over 100 more runs than the Royals, 90 more than the Marlins and almost 70 more than the Orioles. The team OPS is a solid .732, well above the other teams mentioned and on-par with the Cardinals, yet, the Brewers haven’t been able to consistently score due, in part, to a .317 OBP which is much lower than the .324 mark by the Cardinals.
The Brewers needed more offense, but they also needed more on-base guys. Instead, they added Jonathan Schoop and Mike Moustakas at the deadline, two power-first hitters with low career OBP marks, giving the team more of the same.
Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich at the top are dynamic, multi-faceted hitters, but after those two, the rest of the order is power-first hitters and that can leave them exposed from time-to-time.
Finding Relief in Milwaukee
At the deadline, the Brewers opted to add Mike Moustakas and Jonathan Schoop rather than addressing the issue of the rotation. The Brewers have gotten some good production from their collection of mid-rotation arms and without a clear ace available, they opted to improve the offense and the bullpen with addition of Joakim Soria.
The bullpen has been a strength of the Brewers’ all season, but the Milwaukee pen hasn’t been quite as good recently. They’ve slipped to the tenth best ERA at 3.77.
Josh Hader is still striking out a ton. He and Joakim Soria are pitching well. Jeremy Jeffress has allowed one run since the All-Star break and has 13 Ks in 8.2 innings. He’s doing well, but the back of the pen hasn’t been as good. Corey Knebel’s losing his closer’s role. He’s allowed nine runs in 12.1 innings and is 0-2 since the break. Without him producing, each arm has to move deeper in the game.
Between Hader, Jeffress and Soria the pen is still strong, but it’s not nearly as big an asset as it was earlier in the year as the workload continues to grow in the later innings.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals Free Picks
Both Mikolas and Miley have exceeded most expectations for them this year—even in Miley’s small sample size. Look for a reasonably well pitched game by both, but Mikolas is the superior pitcher. The Cardinals should be able to get to Miley, but can they build enough of a lead given the Brewer’s superior bullpen?
It’ll probably be a close game, but give this one to the Cardinals at home. This is a different team in St. Louis that floated around .500 for the first several months. The coaching is different, the players are different, some of the dead weight has been cut or is sitting on the DL while more productive players are getting a look, and—of course—the production is different.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals Pick: Bet the money line and take the Cardinals to continue their run of success at home.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals Score Prediction: Cardinals 6, Brewers 4
Check out our sports videos to get the latest news and game analysis, don't forget to like and subscribe.