Brewers have two aces in hole

Brewers have two aces in hole

ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers have a 2-0 series lead in their four-game National League showdown against the Cardinals, and they are just getting started.

The team's new co-aces will close things out at Busch Stadium, with CC Sabathia bidding to remain unbeaten as a Brewer on Wednesday and Ben Sheets working the series finale on Thursday.

"It looks good on paper," Brewers catcher Jason Kendall said. "But the cool thing about baseball is that anything can happen at any given time."

Bill Hall hit go-ahead home runs on consecutive nights to beat the Cardinals and push the Brewers into sole possession of the NL Wild Card lead and into second place in the NL Central.

At 57-43, the Brewers are off to their best 100-game start since the 1982 club went 58-42 on the way to the American League pennant. At 14 games over .500, the Brewers also have matched their high point from last season.

"We've got all three aspects of the game coming together," Hall said. "We're hitting good, we're pitching good and we're playing great defense. When you're playing with all three aspects, you're going to be a tough team to beat, and that's what we've got right now. Hopefully, Sheets and Sabathia can come out and do what they've been doing all year long."

Sabathia has been outstanding since the Brewers traded for him on July 7. He's 3-0 as a Brewer with a 1.88 ERA and 24 strikeouts vs. six walks. Opponents are hitting .205 off him.

The way the Brewers' rotation lines up, Sabathia and Sheets will also line up against the Cubs next week at Miller Park.

"That's nice to be able to do that, but that's still a dangerous team over there, and [the Cardinals] are capable of beating anybody on any night," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "Yeah, we like that we've got our two aces going, but that doesn't mean anything. It's still a monster battle."

Pitching matchup
MIL: LHP CC Sabathia (9-8, 3.51 ERA)
Sabathia has pitched all nine innings in each of his past two starts, including a four-hitter at San Francisco to begin the second half, becoming the first Brewers pitcher to toss complete games in consecutive starts since Scott Karl in 1995. Sabathia is also living up to his reputation as a tough out: He homered against the Reds on July 13 and then doubled and scored against the Giants on Friday.

STL: RHP Braden Looper (9-7, 4.60 ERA)
It didn't take long for the Padres to knock Looper around in his last outing on July 18. In three-plus innings of work, Looper threw only 68 pitches but managed to give up six runs on eight hits. Looper kept serving up pitches over the heart of the plate so many times that he eventually became visibly frustrated. However, Looper has been much more consistent this year than in years past. In his other three poor starts, Looper has followed with quality starts, showing a strong ability to bounce back.

Tidbits
Brewers outfielder Corey Hart was out of the lineup Tuesday with a cold. He's been nursing the illness since playing in the All-Star Game in New York. ... Yost used closer Salomon Torres on Tuesday despite his, "three days and you're out" rule. Torres had pitched each of the previous three days, but one appearance lasted only three pitches, so, "You discount that," Yost said. Yost probably will have to use someone else in a closing situation on Wednesday if the situation arises. ... Torres planned to do some Internet research on MLB historian Jerome Holtzman, who passed away this week. Holtzman is credited with inventing the save. "Little did he know what was going to become of that little stat," Torres said. "Now the premier closers are hard to find, and that's why they are paid all the big bucks. Ever since he invented that, he has given some prestige to the non-starters." ... Even with the weekend trade for second baseman Ray Durham, Craig Counsell has been instructed to continue taking pregame ground balls at second base in addition to shortstop and third base. "The acquisition of Durham doesn't diminish [Counsell's] role in any fashion," Yost said. "It might cost him two or three pinch-hitting appearances over the course of the year, and it might take away three or four starts at second base, but it's not going to be a major deal."

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN Wisconsin HD

On radio
• WTMJ 620

Up next
• Thursday: Brewers (Ben Sheets, 10-3, 2.88) at Cardinals (Todd Wellemeyer, 8-4, 4.22), 7:15 p.m. CT
• Friday: Brewers (Manny Parra, 9-2, 3.68) vs. Astros (Wandy Rodriguez, 5-3, 3.31), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Saturday: Brewers (Dave Bush, 5-8, 4.39) vs. Astros (Brandon Backe, 6-10, 4.79), 6:05 p.m. CT

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.