The surging St. Louis Cardinals will turn to right-hander Jake Woodford to try to keep their winning streak alive in the second game of a showdown series in Milwaukee against the National League Central-leading Brewers.
The Cardinals (80-69) earned their season-high ninth consecutive victory Monday, beating Milwaukee 5-2 in the series opener behind Jon Lester, who recorded his 200th career win.
Right-hander Brandon Woodruff (9-9, 2.55 ERA) starts for Milwaukee on Tuesday against Woodford, (2-3, 4.30), who originally was scheduled to start the series opener but switched turns with Lester.
With its winning streak, St. Louis has leapfrogged several teams to the grab the second NL wild-card spot. The Cardinals hold a three-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds, who defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-5 on Monday, for the second wild card.
Milwaukee (91-59), which leads St. Louis by 10 1/2 games in the NL Central, has secured a playoff spot. The Brewers could wrap up the division title by winning two of the remaining three games in the series.
Lester, 37, allowed just a pair of second-inning solo homers and a single in six innings. He is 4-1 with a 4.02 ERA in 10 starts with St. Louis since being acquired from the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline.
“You know, I’m just happy to be part of a postseason run,” Lester said. “I think at the end of the day, that’s what we all play for is that World Series. And, to have an opportunity to go after that World Series is huge.”
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said Lester has been a huge part of the team’s recent success.
“Man, what a tremendous addition,” Shildt said. “Obviously, he’s pitched tremendously well. Done a great job, made a few adjustments. But this guy’s got such heart and competitive fire, it’s really fun to watch him go out and compete. He’s like John Wayne, he’s got that True Grit.”
Nolan Arenado hit a two-run homer in the first inning Monday, his 33rd, and Yadier Molina added a pair of RBI singles to pace the Cardinals’ offense.
Milwaukee has lost four of its past six and scuffled offensively in the losses, including Monday night.
“We hit a bunch of kind of lazy fly balls, really. Maybe some were just misses, but they ended up being easy-to-catch fly balls,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We didn’t put enough pressure on Lester or their bullpen tonight.”
Counsell added of the Cardinals, “There’s no question they’re playing well. They played very well (Monday). Their bullpen did a heck of a job. They got the hits with the men in scoring position.”
Woodford has faced the Brewers twice in relief this season, tossing seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out seven. Milwaukee got to him the one time it faced him last year, putting up five runs in 1 1/3 innings. Woodford is 0-2 with a 4.64 ERA in five appearances, including four starts, since his last victory on July 19.
Woodruff is 3-2 with a 3.32 ERA in eight career games (six starts) against the Cardinals, though he hasn’t faced them this season.
Woodruff has lost both of his starts in September. He allowed four runs on nine hits — including three homers — in six-plus innings in a 12-0 defeat to the Phillies on Sept. 6 and then gave up three runs on four hits in a 4-1 setback at Detroit on Wednesday.
–Field Level Media
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