Brewers look little like team Cards faced half a season ago
McNeal: Cards face Brewers team that has undergone much change since their last meeting three months ago
By STAN McNEALFS Midwest
It has been three months since the last meeting between the Cardinals and the
Brewers. The Cardinals beat Kyle Lohse 4-2 that Sunday afternoon, and the right-hander was visibly frustrated while losing to his old team for the third time in the season's early weeks.
In the half season since, the Brewers actually have improved their lot in the NL Central standings. They were in last then; now they're in fourth by half a game. The Cardinals were in first then; now they trail the Pirates by one game.
While the Brewers' standing has barely budged, the team that will host the Cardinals for three games at Miller Park has undergone plenty of changes since it dropped eight of the first 10 meetings between the teams in the season's first six weeks.
Their disgraced slugger, Ryan Braun, is long gone. Since he was suspended for the season last month, the Brewers have gone 13-14.
Center fielder Carlos Gomez is out with a banged-up knee after running into a wall last week. The Brewers are hoping Gomez will avoid the disabled list, but he is not expected to play in the series.
Second baseman Rickie Weeks also is out after undergoing hamstring surgery last week. Weeks wasn't much of a factor against the Cardinals this season, mustering only four hits in 35 at-bats in the first 10 meetings.
The Brewers also have been without Corey Hart and Mat Gamel all season. Hart gave up hope weeks ago of making it back this season from knee surgery. Gamel was lost to a torn ACL for the second straight season in spring training.
Factor in stints on the disabled list for two starters and the Brewers have done well to move out of last place. Their strength has been pitching. The Brewers actually own a lower ERA (3.52) than the Cardinals (3.65) in the three months since their last game.
Lohse certainly has turned around his season. He has gone 7-3 with a 2.84 ERA in 16 starts since his last loss to the Cardinals. Lohse will oppose Lance Lynn in Tuesday night's game, with Marco Estrada and Shelby Miller scheduled to start Monday night's opener.
Lefty Tom Gorzellany, who was working out of the bullpen the last time the teams played, is scheduled to start Wednesday. Gorzellany fared well against the Cardinals as a reliever but has struggled against them as a starter. In nine career starts against St. Louis, the most recent in 2011, Gorzellany is 2-5 with a 4.84 ERA.
The Cardinals need to take advantage of this opportunity against a losing team because their schedule turns tough again. After the Brewers, the Cardinals play host to the Braves for four games and the Reds for three. Then it's off on the road again for three against the Pirates and four more against the Reds.
The Wednesday game looms large for Cardinals right-hander Jake Westbrook, whose spot in the rotation has been less than secure. After putting up a 2.21 ERA in his first nine starts, Westbrook has recorded a 6.66 ERA in his past nine starts. He has lost his past four outings, allowing 24 runs in 21 1/3 innings.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.