Friday night's matchup between the Cards and Brewers in Milwaukee is more than an early season battle of NL Central leaders, with the depth of both rotations being tested at Miller Park.
It’s only the second series of the season for the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers. But a Friday night pitching matchup of Kyle Lohse against David Bush could reveal a lot about the two National League Central Division rivals.
Both Lohse and Bush are on the comeback trail following injury-marred 2009 seasons. They are keys to the success of their respective clubs.
The Brewers were idle on Thursday following a three-game home series against Colorado in which they won two of the matchups. Milwaukee had dropped seven in a row to the Rockies before capturing the last two games of the series.
Milwaukee has one of the best 1-2 hitting punches in baseball with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Middle of the rotation pitching is where the Brewers need help.
Bush was 5-9 with a 6.38 ERA last year, the highest ERA of any National League pitcher with more than 100 innings. The 30-year-old right-hander has never won more than 12 games during his six-year big league career.
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Yet the Brewers are optimistic about Bush, whose season last year was marred by an elbow injury the result of a line drive off the bat of Hanley Ramirez.
Bush says he’s 100 percent healthy now. He only had one poor outing during spring training, giving up six earned runs to San Francisco in his final Cactus League start. Prior to that, though, Bush had a 2.13 ERA in 12 2/3 innings of spring training pitching.
Bush isn’t without talent. He has taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning in each of the past two seasons.
The Cardinals faced Bush twice last year and won both times with Chris Carpenter opposing him.
St. Louis battered Bush for eight earned runs and 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings in a 10-2 victory last Sept. 2. Bush was plus 230 against Carpenter with the total at 7 ½.
Bush pitched much better when he opposed Carpenter five days later, but lost 3-0 as a 185 home underdog. The ‘over/under’ was eight. Bush gave up two earned runs and seven hits in seven innings, striking out three and not walking a batter.
Lohse had a strong 2008 season going 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. But a strained forearm caused him to go on the disabled list twice last year. The 31-year-old Lohse had never gone on the DL before 2009. The result was a 6-10 record, 4.74 ERA and 1.37 WHIP.
The Cardinals have the division’s top 1-2 pitching tandem with Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. But the rest of the rotation is shaky.
Lohse may have pushed himself too hard last season after being rewarded with a four-year $41 million extension in September of 2008.
Lohse was healthy during spring training, posting a 3.81 ERA over 26 innings.
The Brewers were 2-0 versus Lohse last year. Milwaukee won 8-4 at St. Louis last May 18. Lohse was plus 119 against Braden Looper. The total was nine. Lohse surrendered four earned runs and four hits in four innings with five strikeouts and three walks.
Lohse lost, 5-4, at home to the Brewers on Oct. 3. He was plus 128 opposing Carlos Villanueva. The ‘over/under’ was nine. The Brewers tagged Lohse for five runs, two of which were earned, on eight hits in six innings.
St. Louis won seven of nine games at Milwaukee last season, but was just 2-7 at home against the Brewers.
Milwaukee was 40-41 at Miller Park in 2009. St. Louis was 45-36 on the road last year. Both teams did well in NL Central Division action with the Cardinals going 46-34 and the Brewers finishing 42-37.
First pitch from Milwaukee is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. (ET). No rain is in the forecast, but expect the roof at Miller Park to be closed tight with the thermometer forecast to be in the upper-40s at game time.