Tonight, Yovani Gallardo takes the mound in the opening of what has become a very important series for both the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Looking down the schedule, even a few weeks ago, one would assume that this was just the Brewers’ chance to play spoiler and ruin the fun for St. Louis fans. Now, it would appear that a series win in St. Louis would add more fuel to the fire of Milwaukee’s chase for a Wild Card spot.
It’s still a long shot, but a good start in St. Louis will – at the very least – keep hope alive for the Brewers faithful. But, as is always the case with September baseball, no game is easy. And it’s made even harder when your starting pitcher is chasing ghosts against a team like the Cardinals.
Yovani Gallardo is the unquestioned ace of the Milwaukee Brewers pitching staff. He has won seven of his last ten decisions dating back to mid-July, and was a perfect 5-0 in August with 39 strikeouts in 42.2 innings pitched. He started the month of September off with a very rough no-decision in Pittsburgh, but still has not earned a losing decision since July 26th.
That’s all well and good, except that today Yovani has to face the team that has given more trouble than just about anyone – and a pitcher in Kyle Lohse who is working an impressive season of his own.
Gallardo’s career record against the St. Louis Cardinals is the very essence of forgettable. Save for one brilliant performance when he flirted with a no-hitter, the Red Birds have consistently had the hurler’s number. Gallardo owns a 1-9 record against the defending World Series Champions, with a 7.05 ERA. The faithful reader knows I put little stock in the earned run average, but when a number gets that high it’s just too big ignore. He still strikes out a ton – he’s fanned 64 Cardinals in his career – but when he’s not striking them out he seems to be giving up hits. An obvious problem against a team that thrives on opportunity like St. Louis.
There doesn’t seem to be any one thing that provides the answer to Yo’s struggles against the Cardinals.
Every game there seems to be a new problem – one game it was David Descalso, one game it was Yadier Molina, one game it was Rafael Furcal, one game it was Beltran, and one game it was Matt Holliday. He doesn’t walk the Cardinals at a greater rate, and as a whole the team hit well against him during a struggling period in his season. He hasn’t played them since.
If Gallardo can keep control of his curve early (something he always seems to struggle with in St. Louis) he should find an easier road through the Cardinals. This last month was tough on some of the best St. Louis hitters – Beltran, Berkman, and Holliday are all hitting in the mid-to-low .200′s though Holliday has been on the uptick in the last week. If the Cardinal Curse on Gallardo is going to be reversed, this game seems to be the one to do it.
It won’t be easy, of course, but with a Milwaukee team that continues to stay hot and a Cardinals club that is more holding on than pulling away in the Wild Card race, there’s no time like the present. You can watch Yo and the Brew Crew try to turn their fortunes against St. Louis tonight at 7:15 CST.