Although the Cardinals find themselves in the thick of the National League Central race, nipping at the heels of the first-place Pirates, consistency hasn't been one of their strengths of late. But when St. Louis heads to Milwaukee to take on the Brewers on Monday, the Cardinals will have a chance to do something they haven't done since July 21-25: put together a three-game winning streak.
After dropping seven in a row to end July, St. Louis has gone 9-8, winning two straight on three separate occasions, including Saturday and Sunday against the Cubs. The Cardinals' longest winning streak reached six games at the end of April and early May, and manager Mike Matheny said it's hard to put together such runs with all the factors that could lead to a loss on any given day.
"I think there are going to be periods where you're not getting one [win] right after another," Matheny said. "Hopefully those streaks of getting one win right on top of another are somewhere in the near future. This could be the one that starts us."
If St. Louis wants to string together a winning streak, Milwaukee is a good place to get rolling. The Cardinals, who will send right-hander Shelby Miller to the mound, enter the three-game set 8-2 against the Brewers and 4-0 at Miller Park in 2013, which marks St. Louis' only four-game sweep of the season. And with their next 17 games after departing Milwaukee coming against playoff-hopefuls Atlanta, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, the Cardinals would be well-served to pick up as many wins as possible.
However, the Brewers are looking to play the role of spoiler. Even out of the postseason picture, manager Ron Roenicke expects the same intensity this series that the NL Central rivalry has shown in the past.
"I hope it is," said Roenicke, who will give the ball to Marco Estrada for the opener. "There's always a little something different with the Cardinals, so I'm hoping we come out and play well. I don't want to say come out and throw shutouts, like our pitchers are doing for the last [two months], but their offense is obviously very good, and our pitching has to be good."
Cardinals: Miller looks to bounce back
After being knocked out of his Aug. 7 start against the Dodgers two pitches into the game when a Carl Crawford line drive bruised his elbow, Miller struggled in his return on Wednesday.
Although he threw six innings, Miller tied a season-high with eight hits allowed, which helped lead to five runs (three earned).
Miller has had success against the Brewers, though, going 2-0 while giving up just one run in 13 innings across two starts.
Brewers: Estrada strong since lengthy DL stint
Since coming back from a two-month stint on the disabled list with hamstring and back issues, Estrada has given up just one run in two starts. He threw five shutout innings against the Giants on Aug. 7, allowing one hit while striking out six. He followed that with six innings of four-hit ball Tuesday against the Rangers, surrendering just one run on a solo homer.
Estrada has thrown 76 pitches in each of those starts, and Roenicke said he pulled the 30-year-old right-hander due to fatigue against the Rangers.
Unfortunately for Estrada, St. Louis is not a team he's enjoyed much success against this season. In three starts against the Cardinals, he's gone 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA, which was inflated by a May 5 outing in which he allowed eight runs on five walks and six hits 3 1/3 innings.
• Although a timeline for his return has not been determined, Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez resumed baseball activities Sunday after spraining his right knee when he hit the wall making a catch Thursday against the Reds.
"Everything is going like it's supposed to," an optimistic Gomez said. "It's way, way better."
• On Monday, the Brewers continue a stretch in which they play 32 of 35 games against division rivals. They're 2-2 after a four-game series against the Reds opened the tough run of games.
• The Cardinals are 30-21 against the NL Central this season, including a 15-11 mark on the road.
• Jon Jay leads the Cardinals with 26 hits this month after going 2-for-3 with an RBI double and a three-run homer Sunday against the Cubs.
Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.