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Final weekend to answer Crew questions

Final weekend to answer Crew questions

DENVER -- The Brewers begin their final series of the season on Friday in St. Louis, and a number of questions are about to get answers.

Among them:

• What does manager Ken Macha's future look like?

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He's to meet with general manager Doug Melvin on Friday, and Melvin is expected to formally ask Macha to return for the second season of his two-year contract. It's not clear whether Melvin is willing to tack on anything beyond 2010, or whether he will make public the result of Friday's meeting before meeting with reporters for a season wrap up on Wednesday.

• Will Prince Fielder hold off a couple of National League sluggers for the RBI crown?

No Brewer has led the league in that category since Cecil Cooper tied Boston's Jim Rice for the American League title in 1983. Cooper set a franchise record with 126 RBIs that season, a mark Fielder passed on Sept. 19 against Houston two days before Cooper was relieved of his duties as Astros manager. Fielder was tied with Philadelphia's Ryan Howard with a Major League-best 138 RBIs, pending the Phillies' late game Thursday. The Cardinals' Albert Pujols is next with 134 RBIs.

• Will Ryan Braun reach his own personal milestones?

Braun was tied for the NL lead in hits entering Thursday and still has a chance to become the third Brewer and the first since Paul Molitor in 1991 to lead the league. Braun also needs three hits to become the fourth Brewer to post a 200-hit season (Cooper had three of them, Molitor two and Robin Yount one) and needs two more stolen bases to join Tommy Harper as the only Brewers to post a 30-homer, 20-steal season. Harper had 31 home runs and 38 stolen bases in 1971.

• Will Braden Looper keep the ball in the park?

He's surrendered 39 home runs this season -- most in the Majors and a Brewers record. Since 1901, only 22 pitchers have allowed at least 40 homers in a season. Minnesota's Bert Blyleven allowed 50 home runs in 1986 to set a Major League mark. The last pitcher to serve up 40 homers was Cincinnati's Eric Milton in 2005.

Looper has allowed at least one home run in 27 of his 33 starts.

"His thing is getting some movement on the ball and being down in the zone and getting some grounders," Macha said. "They just haven't missed too many of the ones he leaves up."

• What kind of Cardinals team will Looper face?

Likely, a good one. St. Louis has long since clinched the National League Central, but it still has a chance to post the NL's best record and will almost certainly field an "A" team on Friday behind Adam Wainwright, an NL Cy Young Award contender aiming for his 20th win.

"I know Wainwright is going for his 20th, so I'm sure [Cardinals manager] Tony [La Russa] will put his best lineup out there," Looper said.

Pitching matchup
MIL: RHP Braden Looper (13-7, 5.10 ERA)
Looper surrendered two more home runs in his most recent start and has allowed at least one homer in 12 of his past 13 starts. He's allowed one in each of his two starts against St. Louis this season, but is 1-0 in those games with a 3.75 ERA.

STL: RHP Adam Wainwright (19-8, 2.58 ERA)
Wainwright will be going on an extra day of rest, and he can use it. He threw 130 pitches in the Cardinals' division-clinching win on Saturday in Colorado, and had to work hard for most of them. He'll be going for win No. 20, but it's unlikely that the Cards will push him in his last start before the playoffs.

Tidbits
Reliever Chris Smith had a scare in the eighth inning when an Eric Young Jr. bouncer struck him square in the mouth. Smith left the game but didn't lose any teeth and said afterward that he was fine. "I just missed it," he said of the play. ... Third baseman Casey McGehee will likely get one last day off on Friday. Macha would have usually given it to McGehee on Thursday, but wanted to field his best lineup against the Rockies, who were still trying to clinch a playoff berth. ... The Brewers are just 6-9 against the Cardinals this season, but have won four of six games at Busch Stadium.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

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

On television
• FSN-HD

On radio
• WTMJ 620

Up next
• Saturday: Brewers (Dave Bush, 5-9, 6.38) at Cardinals (Kyle Lohse, 6-9, 4.84), 12:10 p.m. CT
• Sunday: Brewers (Chris Narveson, 2-0, 4.01) at Cardinals (Joel Pineiro, 15-12, 3.44), 1:15 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.

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