Although coming off a loss, the St. Louis Cardinals are still one of the hottest teams in the major leagues.
The National League Central-leading Cardinals get back to work Friday in the opener of a three-game series versus the rival Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. St. Louis was in line for a rare four-game sweep of the New York Mets, but dropped a 5-2 decision in Thursday's series finale.
Adam Wainwright had a tough outing and was saddled with the loss for giving up four runs -- three earned -- and six hits in six innings. He did manage to strike out eight batters and issued only one walk.
"He was fighting from the beginning," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Wainwright. "He was pretty good, but you could see he was laboring."
Carlos Beltran led the offense as usual with three hits and an RBI and Pete Kozma drove in a run for the Cardinals, who have still won 12 of their last 15 contests and are 5-2 on a 10-game homestand. Beltran is batting .345 with four homers, 10 RBI and 19 hits in his last 13 games. His on-base percentage in that time is .368 and slugging is at .600.
Jaime Garcia wasn't so sharp in his last start and he is set to redeem himself for St. Louis this evening. Garcia was pounded for a season-high five earned runs and eight hits in six innings of an 8-2 loss to Colorado on Sunday and his record fell to 4-2 in eight starts. His ERA also went from 2.25 to 2.88.
Garcia had to follow brilliant performances by Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright, as the two hurlers held the Rockies scoreless in consecutive complete game efforts.
"Those were definitely pretty tough acts to follow," Matheny said of Garcia's circumstances. "But lately, we've been running up against guys that are throwing the ball well."
Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa countered Garcia and shut the Cardinals' offense down with seven K's over seven shutout frames.
Garcia, who had a personal three-game winning streak stopped, will face Milwaukee for the third time this season and is 1-0 in the first two starts. In a 10-1 victory over the Brewers at Miller Park on May 5, the lefty was charged with only one run in eight innings. Garcia is 5-3 with a 2.75 ERA in 12 games (11 starts) against Milwaukee.
May hasn't been a giving month for the Brewers and neither has this 10-game road trip (1-6). After getting swept in three games at Cincinnati, the Brewers lost three of four at Pittsburgh, including Thursday's 7-1 loss.
Jonathan Lucroy had the team's only RBI and Jean Segura finished with two of the club's six hits and scored a run. Milwaukee has scored just five runs in the last five games and is 0-13 when scoring no more than three runs.
"When you're not scoring runs, it's hard to get motivated," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "We need to grind out some runs."
Hiram Burgos was dealt the loss for giving up three runs and eight hits in five innings. It was a far cry from his last outing in which Burgos was picked apart for 12 runs -- 10 earned -- and 11 hits in three innings of a 13-7 setback against the Reds.
"The last game, I just put it away," Burgos said after Thursday's game. "Today was a new game. I just went out there, trying to get people out and make my pitches. The outcome wasn't what I was wanting, or what the team was wanting, but that's part of the game."
The Brewers have lost 12 of 14 games and will turn to Wily Peralta in Friday's series opener. Peralta has lost two of three starts since going 2-0 in his previous four trips to the hill with Milwaukee 3-1 in that stretch. Peralta didn't have his best stuff in Sunday's 5-1 loss at Cincinnati and was reached for four runs, three of which were earned, in six innings.
Peralta, a right-hander, dropped to 3-3 in eight starts and has a 5.40 earned run average. The Dominican has given up three earned runs or more five times this season. He faced the Cardinals for the first time in his career on May 2 in a 6-5 loss and allowed six runs and 11 hits over 4 1/3 innings.
St. Louis has owned the Brewers this season to the tune of a 6-1 mark. The Cardinals have won four in a row and 10 of the past 13 matchups between the NL Central foes.