The early season showdown between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers has been one-sided thus far. The Cardinals have given the Brewers a reality check. A nine-game winning streak has given way to consecutive losses and a renewed rivalry. The Cardinals-Brewers grudge match is on.
These two have tangled before, the most visible example coming in 2011 when Milwaukee won the National League Central handily but then were steamrolled by St. Louis in the NLCS. The Cardinals also upset a heavily favored Brewers team in the 1982 World Series. In short, the Cardinals-Brewers rivalry may not be one that fires up the average baseball fan, but it has a certain place in the history of both franchises. Especially recent history.
This is not to say this is Cardinals-Cubs or Yankees-Red Sox. It has not reached that level. Nor does it have to. It is Cardinals- Brewers. Which is enough, especially for Brewers fans.
That happens when your best shot for titles have ended at the hands of the same franchise. So here we are in 2014, three years removed from that heartbreaking NLCS loss for the Brewers and despite the infancy of the 2014 season, the Brewers are confident they can be that kind of team again. The main threat to those aspirations, again, are the St. Louis Cardinals.
So Cardinals-Brewers means something more again, as it did in 2011. As it did in 1982 and apparently has for quite some time for the Brewers faithful.
Back to Cardinals-Brewers 2014 though. Milwaukee had reason for optimism coming into this series. They had the best record in baseball and were riding a nine game winning streak. The Brewers seem to be legit and were ready to prove it against St. Louis. Milwaukee seemed to be getting an early break too by getting the Cardinals at home in Miller Park and not having to face the two aces of the St. Louis staff, Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha.
Instead, they got Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller, who came to Milwaukee pitching poorly. Lynn was 2-0 but had an ERA of 6.55 entering the game. Hardly the numbers of a pitcher who halts winning streaks, but come Tuesday morning that is exactly what Lynn had done to the Brewers. Seven innings, three hits, 11 strikeouts and zero runs given up will do that to a team.
Surely things would get better for the Brewers facing Miller, who entered Tuesday night’s affair with an 0-2 record, a 6.35 ERA and six base on balls allowed in just 12.1 innings. Again, like Lynn, Miller seemed to find himself as he dominated Brewer hitters from the outset, striking out seven in just six innings on his way to collecting his first win of the season. So, just like that, St. Louis is one game behind the Brewers, Milwaukee is on a two-game losing streak, and the Cardinals just provided Milwaukee with a reality check.
The final game of the series is today in Milwaukee and if for no other reason than their psyche, the Brewers need a win. “It’s frustrating that they keep winning these series against us,” Estrada said. “It is a new year. I know obviously they won the series already, but it’s early.”
It is early, but the Brewers just got a reality check, courtesy of their biggest rival. Cardinals-Brewers 2014 is starting to feel like Cardinals-Brewers 2011. A rivalry and a race to pay attention to.
Commentary by Mick Varner
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering the St. Louis Cardinals