With eye on the postseason, Cardinals start important series in Milwaukee

Carlos Martinez, who is 5-2 with a 1.75 ERA in his career against Milwaukee, will make his third start against the Brewers this season.
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MILWAUKEE — After back-to-back heartbreaking losses to the Chicago Cubs dropped the Milwaukee Brewers 2 1/2 games back in the National League Central, they will try to turn things around Tuesday when they open a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park.

But if it is going to happen, the Brewers will need to start hitting. Milwaukee has gone nearly a week without driving in a runner in scoring position and brings an 0-for-31 slump into the game against the Cardinals.

“A week without a hit with runners in scoring position, that’s not really acceptable,” third baseman Travis Shaw said Sunday after the Brewers fell to the Cubs. “We have to find a way to cash in on those opportunities.”

Offense in general has been hard to come by for the Brewers, who were among the league leaders in home runs during the first half but have lost nine of 11 and saw a 5 1/2-game divisional lead disappear in a two-week span.

“We’ll come back Tuesday against the Cardinals — another division rival and they’re playing well,” outfielder Lewis Brinson said. “We’ll come back on Tuesday and be ready to go. I think everybody’s ready.

“We’re real confident that these next two months are going to be ours, and we’re going to come out ready to swing it on Tuesday.”

Jimmy Nelson (8-5, 3.38 ERA) takes the ball, looking to continue his hot streak. The right-hander is 7-2 with a 2.82 ERA in his last 16 starts, but the Brewers haven’t offered him much support at times, going just 11-10 in his starts this season.

Nelson struck out 10 in his last outing and left with a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth inning only to see the bullpen melt down.

“That’s part of the game,” said Nelson, who has faced St. Louis twice already in 2017 — going 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in 11 innings. “It’s just a frustrating circumstance, one-run game and everything like that. That happens. We’re all human. We all make mistakes.”

Nelson perhaps knows that all too well as he is 0-8 with a 7.01 ERA in 11 career encounters against St. Louis.

Carlos Martinez (7-8. 3.52 ERA), who is 5-2 with a 1.75 ERA in his career against Milwaukee, will make his third start against the Brewers this season.

Milwaukee roughed him up for five runs in five innings in a 7-5 loss on April 20. He turned the tables two weeks later, holding the Brewers to a run and four hits in 7 1/3 innings.

The Cardinals come to Milwaukee a game below .500 but just 4 1/2 games behind the front-running Cubs and two back of the Brewers. A strong showing in this series could go a long way to climbing back into the thick of a postseason race.

“These are tight games and we really got to lock in,” Cardinals rookie shortstop Paul DeJong said. “Maybe some extra energy as a group, extra focus, but other than that, (we) just (have) to play the game. It will be fun.”