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Tipsheet: Cardinals finish off Brewers, move closer to NL Central title

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Waino and Molina set new major-league history with 325th start as batterymates

Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Corbin Burnes (39) throws a pitch in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022, at Busch Stadium. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

In today’s 10 a.m. video, columnist Ben Hochman discusses Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and their team’s chances of nabbing the No. 2 spot in the National League playoffs. Plus, a happy birthday shoutout to Harry Windsor. And, as always, Hochman picks a random St. Louis Cards card from the hat. Ten Hochman is presented by Window Nation!

By chipping into the Cardinals’ division lead during the past week, the Milwaukee Brewers stirred flickering hopes of a late run for the National League Central crown.

They had staff ace Corbin Burnes on the mound Wednesday, matched up against Adam Wainwright – who had been struggling ahead of his record-setting 325th career start with Yadier Molina.

Had the Brewers won, they would have moved within six games of the Cardinals. That’s not exactly “in range,” but teams have blown bigger late-season margins than that.

But the Cardinals prevailed 4-1 on an historic night, pushing their lead back to eight games and reduced their magic number to 12. That was pretty much eliminated whatever chance the Brewers had to catch the Cardinals.

So the Brewers can put all of their focus on catching the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies now.

“We’re two games out of the wild card,” Brewers second baseman Kolten Wong said. “If you can sneak your way into the playoffs, anything can happen.”

Next up for the Brewers: A six-game homestand against the playoff-bound New York Yankees and Mets.

“The Yankees have been scuffling a little bit, so they’re a team we can go out and get after it with,” Burnes said. “And we played a good series against the Mets early in the year. It’s two series, and obviously they’re first-place teams, but I think we can go out and win some baseball games.” 

Wednesday night’s loss left the Brewers frustrated. They had every chance to seize control of the game but didn’t.

“I think today was a gettable game for us,” Burnes said. “We got to Wainwright early and we just couldn’t get those big hits to push some runs across.”

The Brewers didn’t upgrade their offense at the trade deadline -- and they continue to pay the price for that failure.

“We created opportunities, we just didn’t get the next hit,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We did a great job of getting opportunities, getting people on, creating opportunities every inning against Wainwright. We just didn’t cash any of them in.

“It wasn’t a ton of hard contact. Our best contact got to the wall and didn’t get farther.  We hit a bunch of singles and made contact. He was getting ahead early in the game. We were just lacking the next hit.”

TALKIN’ BASEBALL

Here is what folks have been writing about Our National Pastime:

Jeff Passan, ESPN.com: “Earlier this year, (Nolan) Arenado said he did not plan on opting out of the final five years and $144 million of his contract. Seven-win seasons, of course, do not come around very often -- there were just 43 such WAR totals in the previous decade -- and Arenado's brilliant year, combined with the leverage, warrants at least a renegotiation with St. Louis to prevent him from hitting the open market. Because if he were to, the 31-year-old would stand to do a lot better than five years, $144 million.”

Justin Klugh, Baseball Prospectus: “The Brewers are wrapped up in this whole wild card thing with the Phillies and Padres; there’s only two wild card spots for the three of them and, well, that means one of them is going to have to get kicked out of the car. Not sure if that’s the kind of thing you like as a baseball fan. Me? I prefer these central division races, where the winner has to be shoved forward from a group of teams staring awkwardly at the ground.”

Bob Nightengale, USA Today: “The White Sox, badly underachieving all year, suddenly are virtually healthy and winning.  After five long, miserable months, the White Sox finally are playing the way they envisioned all along. (Miguel) Cairo may be only an interim manager, but it was his fiery speech on his first day of the job, the players will tell you, that woke them up, perhaps just in time to save their season . . .  The Sox play Cleveland and Minnesota 10 times the rest of the season to determine whether they can win back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history. Their season looked like it was over just 2 ½ weeks ago, losing five consecutive games, including a disastrous three-game sweep to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Chicago.” 

Matt Snyder, CBSSports.com: “The Red Sox's current situation doesn't seem ripe for a Judge addition. Judge is older than fellow right-field superstar Mookie Betts, who the Red Sox traded just one year removed from a World Series championship due to not wanting to pay top dollar for him. J.D. Martinez is hitting free agency while Xander Bogaerts is likely to opt out and might sign elsewhere. Rafael Devers is only one year away from free agency, so they have a decision to make there. Nathan Eovaldi, Rich Hill and Michael Wacha are also hitting free agency, so the rotation needs some serious attention.  I suppose it's possible to argue that in making drastic changes during an aggressive offseason, the Red Sox could make Judge their centerpiece -- which also hurts the Yankees, and you know that's a bonus for them -- but it feels like a major longshot.” 

Ray Ratto, The Defector: “Mike Trout will be a first ballot Hall of Famer because he does two things better than any contemporary baseball player. He goes on ungodly tears like the current one, in which he has hit home runs in seven consecutive games, one short of the major-league record. But more amazingly if you think of it a second, he manages to do things like this in an extraordinary and seemingly impenetrable vacuum without either affecting the work of the team with which he plays, or is affected by it. He is a Los Angeles Angel, and like his brother from another passport Shohei Ohtani, he can neither improve nor be deflated by his surroundings. His seventh home run, hit last night off Cleveland’s gloriously named Konnor Pilkington on a first-pitch fastball down in the zone, tied the game at four, which was just enough to help them eventually lose by one. The Angels are 3-4 during Trout’s streak, which neither condemns him for not making them better nor rewards them for not making him worse. They are ships docked together who also somehow manage to pass in the night, night after night, year after year.”

Michael Baumann, FanGraphs: “The decision to change the closer is one of the most awkward a manager will face. Any other combination of bullpen arms can be shuffled around without most fans taking notice, but the save statistic and the entrance music make a closer highly conspicuous. Screw around with that guy, and it becomes a news story. The Braves invested heavily in that position this winter, lavishing $16 million on 34-year-old Kenley Jansen. I’ll go to my grave believing this signing was at least partially about poaching a legendary Dodger the day after L.A. inked Freddie Freeman — you don’t want to go stag to prom when your ex has a date — but closers like Jansen don’t come along every day. The man pitched in three All-Star games and three World Series and entered the season with 350 career saves, more than Rollie Fingers, Robb Nen, or Bruce Sutter. Jansen had encountered some turbulence in the late 2010s and wasn’t putting up ERAs in the 1.00s anymore, but armed with a new sinker and slider, he’s still quite an effective closer. Or, more accurately, he has been. In his past seven appearances dating back to August 27, Jansen has blown three saves in seven attempts, allowing 12 baserunners and three home runs in just 5.2 innings.”

MEGAPHONE

“Sometimes, you have to hit rock bottom to get going. You get an opportunity to still make a run for it. If we get hot, we could piss off everybody right to the end.’’ 

Chicago White Sox pitcher Lance Lynn, on his team’s late push.

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