After 68 games, we’re back to square one in the NL Central.
The Cardinals and Brewers are tied up atop the division standings, both sitting at 38-30. The Brewers were heavy pre-season favorites to win the division, with odds closing around -180. But the Redbirds have fought back despite an aging roster.
In a divisional race so tight, these games matter more than any.
So, who has the edge?
Let’s dive into the starting lineups, betting odds, and my prediction for Tuesday’s NL Central battle in Milwaukee.
St. Louis Cardinals vs Milwaukee Brewers Odds
This line feels fair. The Cardinals might be undervalued if we’ve seen more of Jack Flaherty, but he’s only pitched three innings against the Pirates (allowing two runs on four hits).
I do rather like Aaron Ashby, who I was high on in the pre-season as a middle reliever and spot starter. His 4.25 ERA is underwhelming, but it doesn’t reflect how well he’s pitching.
The 8.5 total seems right, although the wind is projected to be blowing out to the left-center field at close to 9mph. That gives me some pause on the total.
St. Louis Cardinals Starting Lineup
SS T. Edman S
2B B. Donovan L
1B P. Goldschmidt R
3B N. Arenado R
DH N. Gorman L
LF J. Yepez R
RF D. Carlson S
CF H. Bader R
C A. Knizner R
St. Louis Cardinals vs Aaron Ashby
Ashby is striking out close to 11 batters per nine innings. The lefty ranks above the 88th percentile in both hard-hit rate and barrel rate allowed. He’s walking far too many guys, but he’s also getting BABIP’d to death at .336.
Put elite strikeout numbers alongside good batted ball numbers with projected positive regression, and Ashby pairs his mediocre ERA with a 3.01 xERA and a 3.07 xFIP.
Ashby is only going to get better, and he’s got some truly nasty stuff. A two-seamer that sits in the high 90s alongside some bendy breaking pitches.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 12, 2021
If there’s a time to buy low on Ashby, it’s now. He’s allowed 14 runs over his last three starts, with just a 55% strand rate and a .430 BABIP. It’s been a brutal stretch, but his xFIP over the 15 innings is still below 3.00.
Ashby just can’t sleep on the Cardinals. St. Louis thrives against Southpaws, wherein they’ve posted the fourth-highest wRC+ in MLB against the side.
But if there were a time for Ashby to thrive, this start is it. The Cardinals have posted just a .688 OPS against lefties over the last month, a bottom-10 mark in baseball. I’d continue to stay away from Paul Goldschmidt, but continue to attack everyone else.
Milwaukee Brewers Starting Lineup
LF C. Yelich L
SS W. Adames R
1B R. Tellez L
2B L. Urias R
DH A. McCutchen R
C O. Narvaez L
RF H. Renfroe R
3B J. Peterson L
CF T. Taylor R
Milwaukee Brewers vs Jack Flaherty
Not sure what to say about Flaherty. He’s attempting to mount a massive comeback, and he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2019’s five-WAR year. The start against Pittsburgh wasn’t promising, but you can’t blame Flaherty at this moment.
Flaherty is throwing more fastballs than he did last season, although it’s a negligible difference over such a small sample size.
Image credit: Baseball Savant
The Brewers lineup just cannot get it together. They’re 24th in wRC+ over the last month (92) and have yet to crack 100 on the stat this season. They have some power on the squad, especially between Hunter Renfroe, Willy Adames, and Rowdy Tellez.
But the Brewers also don’t have the top-tier hitters in the lineup that most other teams do. 11 Brewers have had 100 ABs this season, and none of them have an OPS+ better than 119.
Christian Yelich was supposed to be that guy, but he may never be again.
St. Louis Cardinals vs Milwaukee Brewers Pick & Prediction
My picks: Brewers ML (-120 at DraftKings Sportsbook), Under 8.5 (-110 at DraftKings Sportsbook)
I just really love Ashby in this matchup. I think he’s going to be very undervalued after a string of poor starts, and that the Cardinals are going to be shut down considering the lineup is slumping against lefties.
Meanwhile, I don’t trust the Brewers to produce runs in any capacity, even if it’s the still-hurt Flaherty on the mound for St. Louis. Flaherty will throw fastballs, and the Brewers are just 17th in MLB in Weighed Fastball Runs Created this season.
Therefore, I am leaning the under in this spot, because I believe this game could finish 3-2.
But the difference in pitching quality between the Brewers and Cardinals is much larger than this -120 line indicates. Not only is Ashby a much better pitcher than Flaherty, but the Milwaukee bullpen is top-10 in reliever xFIP (3.84) this season while the Cards’ pen has the sixth-worst xFIP over the past month (4.25).
I’ll take the Brewers as short home favorites alongside the under at 8.5 or better.