MLB: Milwaukee at St Louis (8:50 PM ET, FSN)

MLB: Milwaukee at St Louis (8:50 PM ET, FSN)

The two frontrunners in the National League Central Division will start up a 3-game series tonight in St. Louis.


2008-04-15

The two frontrunners in the National League Central Division will start up a 3-game series tonight in St. Louis. The host Cardinals are a -123 favorite over the Brewers and 62% of early bettors like them to protect the home turf.

A year ago, Gabe Kapler was coaching in the minor leagues. Now he's helped the Milwaukee Brewers get off to a solid start despite the struggles of their two best hitters from last season. Kapler and the Brewers look to win their third straight when they open a three-game series in St. Louis against the Cardinals on Tuesday in a battle for first place in the NL Central.

Kapler is batting .423 (11-for-26) with four home runs and 11 RBIs this season - his first with Milwaukee (8-4, +4.7 units) after spending last year as a minor league manager in the Boston Red Sox's system. He was 3-for-4 with a double and his second home run in as many games on Sunday in the Brewers' 9-7 win over the New York Mets. "I'm not so sure when he wakes up in the morning if it's not all been a dream," manager Ned Yost said. "He's just done so well. It's unbelievable what he's been able to do."

Kapler's hot start has helped make up for the struggles of two of his teammates. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun combined for 84 homers and 216 RBIs last season, but both have struggled in the first weeks of the season. Fielder, who hit 50 homers last year, has yet to hit one, and is batting .222 in 12 games. Braun isn't doing much better, hitting .226. The two switched spots in the lineup on Sunday with Braun moving up to No. 3 while Fielder dropped to fourth. It didn't seem to help as Braun went 1-for-5 while Fielder was 0-for-4. Milwaukee is just 8-22 against the money line in road games after two or more consecutive wins.

St. Louis (9-4, +4.4 units) split a four-game series with San Francisco over the weekend, losing 7-4 in the finale on Sunday. Right fielder Ryan Ludwick homered for the third straight game, but St. Louis couldn't overcome a rocky outing from Joel Pineiro, who gave up six runs in 3 2-3 innings in his first start off the disabled list. The Cardinals have been able to avoid negative momentum thus far in 2008, winning all four times after a loss.

St. Louis starters were 5-0 with a 0.96 ERA in the first six games of the season, but have gone 2-2 with a 5.82 ERA in seven starts since.

Braden Looper (2-0, 3.09 ERA) looks to turn things around on Tuesday. Looper pitched 5 2-3 innings on Wednesday against Houston, allowing three runs and five hits in a 6-4 win. The right-hander is 3-4 with a 4.93 ERA in 29 appearances against the Brewers. In three starts - all last year - he was 1-2 with a 7.88 ERA. Looper's strength is creating worm-burners off hitter's bats and he and his teammates have won six of his last eight starts at Busch Stadium.

Dave Bush (0-2, 8.44 ERA) counters for the Brewers, who will be looking to move someone out of the rotation to make room for Yovani Gallardo, who is expected to come off the disabled list soon. Bush is the most likely candidate after struggling in his first two starts. He's lasted 5 1-3 in both, including on Wednesday in a 12-4 loss to Cincinnati. Bush allowed five runs - four earned - and six hits. He's a sickly 4-13 against division opponents over the last two seasons. (Brewers Record) Bush is 1-3 with a 7.61 ERA in four career starts against the Cardinals. In his only start in St. Louis, he allowed seven earned runs in six innings of an 8-3 loss.

Sportsbook.com has established the Redbirds as -124 money line favorites with total under 9.5. St. Louis is 10-3 as a home favorite of -110 to -150 and 21-7 as favorite anywhere. Milwaukee has been well noted as being a weak road team and for those that don't remember the Brew Crew is 30-62 as a visiting underdog.

From pitching perspective, the Total is worthy of consideration. The Cards Looper is 18-4 OVER in night games over the last two years (Cardinals Record) and Bush is 8-0 OVER, vs. teams' hitters who draw four or walks a game over the last three seasons. (Team's Record)

This Central showdown will be on Fox Sports in respective regions starting at 8:15 Eastern. The Cardinals were 8-7 against the Brewers last year, including 4-2 in St. Louis.

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