CINCINNATI — It apparently was not a rumor that the Milwaukee Brewers still were in the National League. After not playing the Cardinals in nearly four months, the Brewers will be back in St. Louis Monday night.
Not since April 24 have the teams played after splitting 10 games of the first 24 the Cardinals played this season. In their last previous meeting, Adam Wainwright, who will pitch on Wednesday, beat the Brewers 5-2, with Jordan Hicks gaining the save.
That’s one difference. Hicks is out for the season after Tommy John elbow surgery. Milwaukee first baseman Jesus Aguilar, an All-Star last year, is with Tampa Bay now. The Brewers have a new second baseman in Keston Hiura and a new outfielder in Trent Grisham.
The Cardinals have new infielder/outfielder Tommy Edman and Carlos Martinez has taken over for Hicks as the closer.
Pinch hitter Christian Yelich made the final out of that April 24 game, striking out against Hicks. There is a high probability that Yelich, who had eight homers and 19 runs batted in for the nine games he started against the Cardinals this season, will be playing all three games in St. Louis.
And lefthander Gio Gonzalez, who will start Tuesday for Milwaukee, always seems to be facing the Cardinals, having signed on with the Brewers for the second year in succession. Gonzalez rarely missed a start against the Cardinals when he was with Washington.
“No matter what team he’s on, we always seem to find him,” said Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong.
Those teams now will play six games in the next 10 days and then the Brewers will be back in St. Louis for three more games on Sept. 13-15.
All the while, both teams will be keeping an eye on the Chicago Cubs, who are between the two in the Central standings. The Cardinals have seven games left with the Cubs on the last two weekends in September.
“It’s like the good, the bad and the ugly,” said DeJong. “It’s up to the reader to determine who’s who.
“This is so wide-open,” DeJong said. “We’d like think it’s between us and the Cubs but between us and the Brewers is good, too. If one of the teams falls out, that kind of narrows the focus. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
DEJONG TURNS TO DEFENSE WHEN NOT HITTING
DeJong, who dropped to .246 with another hitless game Sunday, did make two strong defensive plays, one on a double play off Eugenio Suarez in the seventh and another on a slow roller by Jose Iglesias in the fourth.
DeJong said he had been pleased with how he had learned to separate defense and offense. But his .195 average with men in scoring position bothers him.
“Some day, I’m going to get better at that,” he said. “It’s not good.
“I just want to get the run in and I force it and swing at bad pitches.
“This year has been a lot of ups and downs,” said DeJong, who does have 21 homers. “But it’s been good, though. It’s my first full 162 (games) up here. Learning all this stuff is going to make me better next year.”
DeJong hardly is the only Cardinal who is under the norm. “Despite all the struggles we’ve had as a group, we’re still right there,” he said. “It’s comical, really.
“It shows you how close you are to being good or bad. You’re always right there on the edge, teetering. You have a choice and a chance every day to tip the scales.”
FIVE HITS FOR ROOKIES
Besides the three hits by Tommy Edman, rookie Lane Thomas had two Sunday, raising his average to .367 for 30 at-bats.
“We’re seeing patience, with aggression,” manager Mike Shildt said. “The ball comes off his bat pretty darned good. He’s got some skills”
Asked if one might see Thomas playing against the next lefthander the Cardinals see — which will be Gonzalez — Shildt replied, laughing. “Might you?”
Veteran Paul Goldschmidt, talking about both Thomas and Edman, said, “It’s no surprise. We saw both of those guys in the spring and it doesn’t surprise us the success they’re having. They’re playing great ‘D’ and hitting the ball.”
Thomas said, “I’m not too picky. I’ll do whatever they need me to do.”
SHILDT DRAWS ON LA RUSSA PLAN
Shildt gave both outfielder Dexter Fowler and second baseman Kolten Wong Sunday’s start off, although both finished the game. He said part of his reasoning was to them a break after a night game and keep them fresh for the long stretch run ahead.
“We’re going to need guys to grind as we get closer towards the end of the season,” said Shildt.
Shildt said he has drawn on the experience of what manager Tony La Russa did when he managed the Cardinals and Oakland. La Russa’s mantra was to “give a day off before he absolutely needs it,” said Shildt. .
“If a guy is starting to wear down, (a) he’s not going to perform and (b) he’s more susceptible to injury,” said Shildt. “You want to stay ahead of it.”
REYES NOT THROWING
Righthander Alex Reyes, who has missed much of the season again with injuries, no longer is on a throwing program, Shildt said. The manager said Reyes, who most recently had a torn pectoral muscle, is rehabbing at a facility that is not in either Memphis, to which Reyes had been assigned, or the Cardinals’ camp in Florida. Reyes had worked out at a facility in Miami last year. . . Lefthander Austin Gomber, who missed a couple of months with a shoulder problem, threw a batting practice session in Jupiter, Fla., on Saturday as he tries to pitch before the season is over. . .. Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who historically has strafed the Cardinals (.314 batting average, .437 on-base percentage), went on the injured list with a lower back strain after missing the first three games of the series. . . . Goldschmidt’s two-run homer Sunday off Cincinnati lefthander Alex Wood was his fourth in 30 at-bats against Wood. Goldschmidt has played all 122 games for the Cardinals. He has played 158 or more games on four occasions for Arizona.