After a dismal slump dropped them out of the NL Central lead and threatened their playoff chances altogether, the Milwaukee Brewers are back to playing the type of baseball that had them in first place for a majority of the season.
In order to gain more ground, Milwaukee likely will have to solve a pitcher who held it in check just 10 days ago.The Brewers seek a sixth victory in seven games as they face Adam Wainwright and the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium.Milwaukee (79-72) held a 1 1/2-game edge in the Central on Aug. 25, then dropped 13 of 14 before its current run. It sits four games back of St. Louis in the division after beating the Cardinals 3-2 in 12 innings Tuesday, and it remained 1 1/2 behind Pittsburgh for the second wild card after the Pirates beat Boston 4-0.Carlos Gomez walked and stole the next two bases before scoring on Hector Gomez's bloop hit in the 12th."We're playing like it's the playoffs right now and I think that's what we need," Carlos Gomez said. "Nobody told us it was going to be easy. We have to fight for it."The Cardinals (83-68) had their three-game winning streak snapped after being shut out for the final 11 innings. They'll look to bounce back behind Wainwright (18-9, 2.56 ERA), who can tie for the major league lead in wins.Wainwright dominated the Brewers on Sept. 7 and needed only 100 pitches to toss a complete game in a 9-1 victory. He followed that by winning his third straight start Friday, allowing one run in eight innings of a 5-1 win over Colorado.Things weren't going so well for the right-hander prior to those outings. He allowed a season worst-tying seven runs in 5 1/3 innings of a 7-4 loss to Milwaukee on Aug. 1, beginning a stretch during which he went 3-4 with a 5.28 ERA in seven starts before beating the Brewers."When I'm cruising, I'm ahead in the count, throwing all my pitches for strikes, trusting my defense and pounding the bottom of the zone," Wainwright said. "So, doing those things, usually things work out right."Wainwright also beat Milwaukee 10-2 on July 12, giving up two runs in seven innings.He's had some trouble with a couple of the Brewers, though, as Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez each are 4 for 9 against him this season. Ramirez is hitting .411 with three homers and eight doubles off Wainwright in his career.Milwaukee counters with Mike Fiers (6-2, 1.84), who will be making his first start since being involved in an unfortunate incident.Fiers improved to 6-1 with a 1.74 ERA in seven starts since being recalled from the minors Aug. 9 after allowing three hits in five scoreless innings of a 4-2 win over Miami on Thursday.The right-hander, though, hit Giancarlo Stanton during his final inning and the Marlins slugger suffered facial fractures. Reed Johnson pinch-hit for Stanton, and Fiers hit him on the very next pitch. In an odd twist, umpires ruled both players had swung at the pitches that hit them and Fiers got out of the inning before the benches cleared."You never think of throwing at somebody like that. Never in my life has that happened," Fiers said. "I just feel very, very sad that I hit him. I'm sorry to their teammates, their fans, his family. It is just tough."Prior to that outing, Fiers gave up two runs in 6 2/3 innings of a 6-2 win over the Cardinals on Sept. 5. He's 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in three starts and two relief appearances in his career against St. Louis.
Adam Wainwright has a 37.5 chase percentage against his curveball this season, which is fifth highest among qualified starters in MLB. Ryan Braun has a chase percentage of 43 percent against curveballs this season, which is 14.3 percentage points higher than the league average among qualified batters.