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First Pitch: Cardinals go for NL Central crown in clash with Milwaukee

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Pujols hits 700

St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols hits home run number 700 in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 at Dodger Stadium. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman discusses the Cardinals’ legendary duo of Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright on the day of their record-breaking 325th start together. And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented by Window Nation!

First Pitch is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. at Milwaukee's American Family Field.

The Cardinals can clinch the NL Central division crown and guarantee home field in the first round of the playoffs with a win today. The Magic Number entering today's game is three, but with a win the Cardinals would win the season series and secure the tie-breaking scenario with the Brewers. 

Manager Oliver Marmol said they will treat today's game no differently than they would any other divisional game. Just because they have the bullpen depth and strength to shorten the game in the middle innings, he said, doesn't mean they will pull a starter early.

Miles Mikolas will get the start for the Cardinals, with Andrew Knizner receiving him behind the plate. The pair have made for an unlikely tandem, but have seen success in their 130 innings together this year. If Miles can throw 6⅔ innings tonight, he would eclipse the 200-inning mark for the second time in his career. 

Besides Knizner starting the Cardinals will utilize essentially the exact same lineup they did in their Sunday finale against the Dodgers. Albert Pujols will step in as DH in the only other change. The lineup features five of nine hitters swinging from the left side against a righty, with Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, Albert Pujols, and Knizner being the exceptions. 

Follow today's game in a live blog found here.

Lineups

CARDINALS (89-65)

1. Brendan Donovan, 2B

2. Lars Nootbaar, RF

3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

4. Nolan Arenado, 3B

5. Albert Pujols, DH

6. Corey Dickerson, LF

7. Dylan Carlson, CF

8. Andrew Knizner, C

9. Tommy Edman, SS

P: Miles Mikolas, RHP

Brewers (82-71) 

1. Christian Yelich, LF

2. Willy Adames, SS

3. Rowdy Tellez, 1B

4. Hunter Renfroe, RF

5. Kolten Wong, 2B

6. Keston Hiura, DH

7. Jace Peterson, 3B

8. Omar Narvaez, C

9. Garrett Mitchell, CF

P: Adrian Houser, RHP

Pitching Matchup

RHP Miles Mikolas (11-13, 3.35 ERA): Losing three of his last four appearances despite quality starts in each of them, Mikolas is looking to get back into the win column in a ballpark that has been friendly to him. This season at American Family Field, Mikolas owns a 2.08 ERA and lifetime he owns a 5-2 record.

RHP Adrian Houser (6-9, 4.62 ERA): One of the weaker links in formidable Milwaukee staff, Houser has struggled against the Cardinals. In two appearances against St. Louis, the Brewers lost both games as Houser allowed 13 hits and 7 earned runs over just nine innings of work. Houser has not given the Brewers depth in starts of late either, pitching past the fifth inning once in his last 7 starts.

Wild Cards

  • The Cardinals have hit 229 home runs at American Family Field, formerly known as Miller Park, the most of any opposing team. The Cardinals' current lineup also features three of the top six players to hit home runs in the building. Albert Pujols (20), Yadier Molina (19) and Paul Goldschmidt (18). Nolan Arenado holds the stadium's slugging percentage record for visiting players at .765. 
  • St. Louis can earn its 39th season with 90 or more wins tonight. The win would also vault Oliver Marmol past Rogers Hornsby into sole possession of ninth place for most wins by a rookie Cardinals manager.

Injury Report 

  • Tyler O'Neill has been placed on the 10-day IL with a left hamstring strain. He continues to rest from the Grade 1 strain, and it's not yet clear when he will resume baseball activities, though the Cardinals hope to have a feel for that while they're at Dodger Stadium during the coming weekend. (Updated Sept. 22)
  • Jordan Hicks (arm fatigue) is expected to resume throwing shortly with the possibility of being evaluated for a return during the next home stand, when he is eligible to come off the injured list. A battery of exams of his arm and neck did not show a structural reason for the sensation of fatigue that put him on the IL. (Updated Sept. 22)
  • RHP Drew VerHagen (hip) and RHP Alex Reyes (shoulder) underwent season-ending surgeries. Both right-handed pitchers are expected to be ready for spring training after a winter of recovery. (Updated Aug. 20)

Up Next

The Cardinals will return to the Midwest for a two-game stint in Milwaukee where they could potentially clinch the NL Central crown. They then head back to St. Louis for the final home series before visiting Pittsburgh for the final three games of the 2022 season.

Check back here throughout the afternoon and evening for immediate coverage of the game and any news that surfaces from the Cardinals' pre-game activities. We will publish expanded game coverage online Tuesday night, and also in the pages of Wednesday's Post-Dispatch. 

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