A rookie pitcher has not had this kind of impact in the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation in 13 years.
Shelby Miller, though, has been a key part of the Cards' run at a division title and makes his 30th start of the season on Friday night in the opener of a three-game set with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Miller is set to become the first Cardinals rookie to make 30 starts since Rick Ankiel in 2000 and is one strikeout shy of matching Harvey Haddix for third on the club's rookie strikeout list. Haddix fanned 163 in 1953, while Ankiel has the most by a St. Louis freshman with 194.
Miller has given up four earned runs in three starts this month and won his second outing in a row on Sunday. He bested Seattle 12-2, allowing two runs -- one earned -- on three hits and two walks over five innings, improving to 14-9 with a 3.01 earned run average.
The righty has the most victories by a Cards rookie since Dick Hughes won 16 in 1967,
Miller's win over the Mariners came five days after he blanked Milwaukee over 6 2/3 innings of a 4-2 win. The 22-year-old improved to 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA in four starts versus the Brewers, allowing three runs over 25 innings.
The Cards began the week by splitting a four-game set with Colorado and Thursday's 7-6 setback in 15 innings cut their lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates to one game for first place in the NL Central. They also lead Cincinnati by just two games.
Matt Holliday went 3-for-4 with two RBI on Thursday, but closer Edward Mujica gave up a game-tying solo homer in the ninth and Corey Dickerson's run-scoring triple in the 15th was the difference.
"A loss this time of year, you can never find too much to be positive about, but we were down four runs at one point in that game and we had chances," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.
The Brewers will try to repeat as spoilers tonight and are trying to finish strong. They had a four-game win streak halted with Thursday's 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs, but it was just their second loss in eight games.
The Brewers dominated the Cubs, going 13-6 against them this season, but showed little signs of life on Thursday.
"We didn't have many chances to do much (offensively)," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "We did square up some balls, about five or so that were hit right at people. But we didn't do much damage."
Brewers rookie Johnny Hellweg faces the Cardinals for the first time and is 1-4 with an 8.31 ERA in six games (5 starts) with Milwaukee this season.
Hellweg was named the Pacific Coast League's Pitcher of the Year at the end of August before earning a September callup. He won his first career Major League game when he held the Cubs to three runs over six innings on Sept. 7, but fell back into the loss column on Saturday as he yielded four runs on eight hits and a walk over five frames versus Cincinnati.
"The first two innings toughened him," said Roenicke about Hellweg, who finished his outing with three scoreless frames.
The 24-year-old righty has walked 17 batters in 21 2/3 innings with the Brewers this season.
The Cardinals have won 12 of 16 versus the Brewers this season, going 6-1 at Miller Park.