Originally posted on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 10/8/11

Behold the power of cheese.

Things have been pretty good in Wisconsin in 2011. Outside of all that political crap, the sports scene has been unreal. From the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, to the Packers’ run through the playoffs and their Super Bowl XLV win, and even Marquette and Wisconsin making it to the Sweet Sixteen, it has been a dream season for everyone in America’s Dairyland.

And then there are the Brewers.

The acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the off-season were overshadowed by the Packers somehow overcoming Jay Cutler’s dominance. There was definite hype early in the season, but that was tempered somewhat by Greinke’s hoop dreams and Ramon Hernandez’s walk-off grand slam on Opening Day. Milwaukee started off 0-4, and then lost eight straight to fall to 13-19. Then the Brewers finally got back to full strength.

Greinke got shelled in is first outing, losing to Atlanta 8-0, but then the Brewers rattled off 25 victories in their next 34 games, culminating with a three game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in early June during a weekend series at Miller Park. Greinke out-pitched Carpenter in the second game of that series, and by that Sunday evening, Milwaukee had gained control of the NL Central and didn’t look back.

That series brings us to this October weekend. If you would have told me after the Brewers swept St. Louis that weekend, that they would be facing the Cardinals with home-field advantage for the right to go to the World Series, I would have shotgunned a celebratory Old Milwaukee right there on the spot. It took a hell of a collapse by the Atlanta Braves and a hell of a September by the Cardinals, but here we are in that very situation today.

Brewers-Cardinals NLCS TV Schedule
  • TV: TBS
  • Game 1: Sunday, Oct. 9 at 4:05 p.m. ET @ Milwaukee
  • Game 2: Monday, Oct. 10 at 8:05 p.m. ET @ Milwaukee
  • Game 3: Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 8:05 p.m. ET @ St. Louis
  • Game 4: Thursday, Oct. 13 at 8:05 p.m. ET @ St. Louis
  • *Game 5: Friday, Oct. 14 at 8:05 p.m. ET @ St. Louis
  • *Game 6: Sunday, Oct. 16 at 4:05 p.m. ET @ Milwaukee
  • *Game 7: Monday, Oct. 17 at 8:05 p.m. ET @ Milwaukee
Brewers-Cardinals NLCS Probable Pitching Matchups

As of Saturday morning, pitching probables had not been set, outside of Greinke starting Game 1 on Sunday. Carpenter pitched a gem Friday night, and I don’t think that Tony La Russa will let him pitch again until Game 3 on Wednesday, setting up a match-up between he and Yovani Gallardo. Based on that logic, here is what I expect the pitching match-ups for the first four games to look like.

  • Game 1: Greinke  (16-6, 3.83) vs. Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56)
  • Game 2: Marcum (13-7, 3.54) vs. Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.39)
  • Game 3: Gallardo (17-10, 3.52) vs. Carpenter (11-9, 3.45)
  • Game 4: Randy Wolf (13-10, 3.69) vs. Jake Westbrook (12-9, 4.66)

The edge here has to go to the Brewers. Greinke has been dominant at Miller Park this season, with an 11-0 record during the regular season and an ERA just a tick over 3. Marcum got rocked in his last outing, Game 3 of the NLDS against Arizona, but that game was inevitable based on where the series was at.

The key to the whole series will come down to home field advantage. If Milwaukee can hold suit and win Game 1 and 2 at home, Game 3 will be make or break. Carpenter is 36, but has shown that age doesn’t matter in this postseason so far. Gallardo got the job done in both Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLDS against the D’backs, and he’s pitched enough in St. Louis not to get fazed. I think Milwaukee rides their passionate home crowd to a 2-0 start, and which way the rest of the series goes will come down to Game 3. If St. Louis wins, I think this series goes seven games. If the Brewers win Game 3, I think they win the series in five.

As far as the offense goes, everybody knows that Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are capable of, and the Cardinals have an equally potent duo in Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols. I think these two duos will each single-handedly win a game or two for each club, so I think the sluggers for each series will be a wash.

What the series will come down to is the supporting players, and who can step up to make a big hit. Specifically, the series could swing on which No. 5 hitter can have the better series. Matt Holliday should be healthy by the start of the NLCS, having just nine at-bats in the NLDS. Rickie Weeks is also still feeling the effects of an ankle sprain he suffered earlier in the season and went just 1-for-18 in the series. Braun, Fielder, Pujols and Berkman will all get on plenty this series, but the onus will be on Holliday and Weeks to drive them in.

Jason Motte and Fernando Salas have been very good, if not great for St. Louis this season. K-Rod and John Axford struggled for the Brewers in Game 5 against Arizona, but both have performed excellently all season. I do think both bullpens will do their jobs when called up, so that the series depends more on how the lineups fare against the starting pitchers than relievers.

There’s bad blood between the two teams, as documented by both the Milwaukee and St. Louis media. Nyjer Morgan hates Pujols and Carpenter, and I know that La Russa is not a fan of the #BeastMode schtick. This series will be hotly contested, and will come down to Game 7, Gallardo vs. Carpenter.

But the game will be at Miller Park, and Tony Plush will prevail.

NLCS Prediction: Brewers in 7.

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