By Grant Braden, The Cardinal Nation Show
St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - The National League Central race is one of the tightest in baseball making every game within the division matter that much more. Four teams are separated by eight games as the second half of the season has just gotten underway. The Cardinals have won just one of their last five as they look to take the series in Milwaukee tonight.
The Brewers sit four games below .500 and have struggled with consistency. Trying to gain eight games in the tough NL Central is not an easy task, but it is the road the Brew Crew must take. After taking two of three from Pittsburgh to open the second half, Milwaukee will turn to a rookie who got pounded in his only major league start to do the same against St. Louis.
Tyler Thornbug made his major league debut during interleague play against the Toronto Blue Jays. He scattered seven hits while allowing five earned runs. The stat most alarming however is the four home runs he surrendered. Thornburg has since made a relief appearance of two innings and while he struck out three, he allowed another home run. The 23 year old will need to keep the ball down to find success against a potent Cardinal offense.
As Thornburg sees his first action against St. Louis, Adam Wainwright will appear in his 23rd game against Milwaukee. The Brewers are batting .196 all-time against him and have scored the third most runs against him of all teams in baseball. Wainwright's first start of the season was against Milwaukee. He pitched exceptionally well, but took the loss after only giving up three runs on four hits. He has been on and off through his last four starts, but a familiar foe may bring out the best in Wainwright.
The dangerous threat once known as the Cardinals offense may need to buckle down and revisit boot camp. Putting up 2.4 runs in the five games since returning, they are a combined 8 for 45, a weak .178, with runners in scoring position and have seen a total of 48 men left on base, a mark of nearly ten per game. They are putting up nearly nine hits a game, but with so few coming with runners on, the run scoring season for the Birds is as dry as the St. Louis weather.
Player to watch: Aramis Ramirez. Ramirez has seen Wainwright the most, hit Wainwright the most and has the highest batting average of anyone on the Brewer club. Ranging back from his days with the Cubs, Ramirez boasts a .644 slugging percentage and has taken Wainwright deep, twice.
-Barret Browning has been good lately. He mixes his off-speed and breaking pitches well to keep hitters out in front and off balance. In his eight appearances, Browning has given up just three hits.
-St. Louis is 5-3 against Milwaukee this season and has won every series against them thus far.
-In extra inning games, the Cardinals are 2-6 and in games decided by one run, they are 11-16. Their record sits at 24-24 in games the Cardinals play away from Busch Stadium.