The St. Louis Cardinals managed to make up a little ground in the NL Central race over the weekend, but time is running out on their faint playoff chances.
The Cardinals try to win back-to-back games for the first time in two weeks when they open a series Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers.St. Louis (71-63) took two of three from Cincinnati over the weekend to cut the Reds' lead to seven games with 28 contests remaining, and none left against the division leaders."We've got a pulse," shortstop Brendan Ryan said after Sunday's 4-2 win.The Cardinals, who entered the series against Cincinnati having lost 13 of 17, haven't won consecutive games since taking three in a row Aug. 21-23."We've got to win games, no matter who we're playing," said Chris Carpenter, Sunday's winning pitcher.The Cardinals have split 12 games against the Brewers (63-73) this year and this will be their first trip to Miller Park since the first week of the season. They took two of three in that series are 9-3 in Milwaukee since 2009.Albert Pujols has been instrumental to this success at Miller Park, batting .448 with five homers and 13 RBIs in his last seven games there. The three-time NL MVP has seven homers and 15 RBIs against the Brewers this year and is 5 for 15 with a homer lifetime against Yovani Gallardo (11-7, 3.86 ERA), Milwaukee's scheduled starter.Gallardo has a 12.27 ERA in his last three starts and has yielded at least four runs in each of his last five outings causing his ERA to jump more than a run from 2.71. In Tuesday's 8-4 loss to Cincinnati, the All-Star right-hander was tagged for a season-worst eight runs over five-plus innings."When you're getting knocked around like that, yeah, there's reason for concern. But I think the ball is coming out of his hand fine," manager Ken Macha told the Brewers' official website. "What's the alternative? Shut him down? I don't think so."It could be tough for Gallardo to get back on track against the Cardinals, whom he's recorded an 8.22 ERA in losing two starts against this year.In his last outing against St. Louis on July 4, Gallardo left after permitting six runs -- one earned -- in 2 2/3 innings because of a strained a left side muscle.The Cardinals counter with Jake Westbrook (1-3, 4.03), who is trying to avoid losing four consecutive starts for the first time since dropping his first five outings in 2005.Against Houston last Monday, Westbrook allowed three runs in seven innings in a 3-0 loss. The right-hander has received just two total runs of support during his three-start skid.In his only start against the Brewers on June 17, 2006, Westbrook allowed one unearned run while striking out eight in eight innings of a 3-2 loss, but didn't get a decision.Milwaukee returns home after defeating Philadelphia 6-2 on Sunday for its only win on a six-game trip. Prince Fielder hit his 30th home run, becoming the second Brewer in team history with four straight 30-plus homer seasons."The main thing is I'm able to play every day If I'm able to do that, the numbers will come," said Fielder, who reached the milestone while playing in his 321st straight game.Despite playing in every game, Fielder hasn't been very productive against the Cardinals this season, batting .277 with a homer, two RBIs and 18 strikeouts in 47 at-bats.