Cards try to pad NL Central lead in rubber match with Brewers

( - Shelby Miller has a tough act to follow when he leads the St. Louis Cardinals into Thursday's finale of a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cardinals have won each of Miller's last three starts and he is 2-0 with a 0.45 earned run average in that time. Miller held Colorado to a run in six innings of a 5-4 win on Saturday, lifting his record to 10-9 on the season with a 3.75 ERA.

Miller has never lost to the Brewers as evidenced by a 5-0 mark in seven career starts to go along with a 2.30 ERA.

Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright didn't seem to have an issue with the Brewers either and went the distance in Wednesday's 2-0 win. Wainwright is 19-9 on the season and allowed seven hits with seven strikeouts and two walks for his third shutout of the season.

His four-start winning streak has allowed him to join Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Clayton Kershaw as the lone 19-game winners this season.

"I would say that was an impressive pitching performance," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "He had everything and then when you watch the ninth and see 95 pop up there and you realize that this guy still had a lot in the tank."

Wainwright, Matt Adams and Jhonny Peralta had the only three hits for the Cardinals, who remained 2 1/2 games ahead of the Pirates for first place in the NL Central. Adams and Peralta provided RBIs in the decisive seventh inning.

St. Louis, which has posted 21 shutouts in 2014, is five games ahead of Milwaukee in the Central standings and has won four of its last five games. It will host Cincinnati next for three games this weekend.

The Brewers were playing well again until Wednesday's loss, having won two in a row and five of six games. Carlos Gomez and Gerardo Parra had two hits apiece and Mike Fiers was dealt the hard-luck loss for giving up two runs -- one earned -- and three hits in seven innings.

"We faced one of the toughest pitchers in the game and he got the victory," Gomez said, "but Fiers threw better than him, I think."

Milwaukee is 2 1/2 games out of the second wild card spot in the NL and will hand Kyle Lohse the ball Thursday. Lohse is 12-9 with a 3.81 earned run average, but only 1-5 in his last six decisions. In last Friday's 3-2 win over the Reds, Lohse did not factor in the outcome with 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball.

Lohse has faced the Cardinals 12 times (all starts) in his career and is 3-7 with a 5.12 ERA against them. St. Louis tagged Lohse for five runs across four innings of a 5-3 decision on Sept. 6 and pounded him for nine runs -- seven earned -- in four innings of a 9-7 verdict on Aug. 2.

The Brewers still have Pittsburgh and Cincinnati to visit on this nine-game road trip.

The Cardinals are 11-7 versus the Brewers this year.