The Cardinals are trying to make a comeback in the NL Central and catch the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. Their Redbirds entered Friday’s game at Wrigley Field with a six-game winning streak and a 17-10 record in their last 37 games. There’s a heartbeat!

It may not matter for three reasons:

The Cardinals were 10 games out of first place as they opened Friday’s afternoon game against tough lefty starter Justin Steele and the Cubs. We can talk about the remarkable comeback by the 1964 Cardinals as much as you’d like, but don’t let the nostalgia overwhelm you. It won’t be easy to claw back from the deficit the Cardinals created for themselves with two-plus months of bad baseball.

If president of baseball ops John Mozeliak follows through on his publicly announced plan to trade assets from a seller’s position, the Aug. 1 trade deadline could create holes in the pitching staff and weaken the St. Louis roster.

Even with an offense that wheezes too often, the Brewers are better than they’re given credit for. This applies to the national view as well as the local view … and frankly I’m not sure why.

You don’t have a 54-43 record and the NL’s third-best winning percentage unless your team is strong enough in every other area to compensate for a listless offense.

The Brewers are resilient and resourceful. A smart front office does an outstanding job of finding low-cost solutions to produce high-value results to overcome injuries and fill roster gaps. Craig Counsell is the best manager in the National League. I’d say Counsell is No. 1 overall, but Bruce Bochy (Texas) has earned that distinction by winning three World Series during his managerial career.

The Crew gets a lot done despite being funded at a payroll cost that ranks 20th in the majors this season. And they’re doing it again, having won eight of their last 10 games through Thursday as part of a 20-9 run that began on June 16.

Let’s take a look at why the Brewers are so stubbornly successful despite a limited payroll, the NL’s third-worst scoring offense, and a hard blitz of injuries that would leave other teams staggered.

1. Counsell. Putting historical achievements aside for a few moments, no manager does it better. No manager squeezes more from his roster than this guy. And no manager handles a bullpen with better instincts and planning plots than Milwaukee’s man. As I mentioned earlier, Bochy has the most distinguished career of current MLB managers, but in 2023 he has the advantage of managing a Rangers team that ranks 9th in the 26-man payroll. Counsell does more with less.

2. Run prevention. Through Thursday the Brewer ranked third in the NL by giving up 4.2 runs per game. It isn’t just because of the pitching, which I’ll get to next. The Brewers augment their starters and relievers with a defense that ranks first in the NL and third overall in runs saved.

3. Pitching really matters – and unlike Cardinals’ management, Milwaukee’s front office never forgets that. This season the Crew is No. 3 in the NL with a 4.07 starting-pitching ERA and the bullpen is third in save percentage. The Cardinals have blown 29 leads this season, but the Brewers have let only 17 leads get away. I think the solidity and quality of the Milwaukee pitching staff is best summed up by this metric: the Brewers’ arms lead the majors in Win Probably Added. Their starters are ranked third in WPA and their bullpen is first.

4. Let’s stay with starting pitching to show you the difference between the Brewers and Cardinals. Milwaukee starters have recorded no worse than an average Game Score in 58 games. The Cardinals have done that only 41 times. And that’s a big reason behind the gap in the standings. When the Brewers get an average-or-better Game Score by a starter, they’re 42-16. When the Cardinals do the same, they’re 27-14. The Cardinals’ starters don’t pitch to that level as often as the Brewers do. And even when the Cards do it, their winning percentage (.658) is inferior to Milwaukee’s .724.

5. Injury preparation and response. I had to laugh earlier this week when Cardinals president of baseball John Mozeliak – again – cited injuries as an excuse for his team’s brutal start. That’s so weak. It’s also nonsense, especially on the pitching side. Through Thursday the Brewers had 1,000 days collectively missed by players because of injuries. St. Louis players had missed 582 days. Milwaukee starting pitchers had 413 missed days; Cardinals starters had 113 missed days.

The Brewers rotation has absorbed these injury blows to their starting pitching: 114 days missed by Brandon Woodruff, 39 days missed by Adrian Houser, 37 missed days by Wade Miley, and 50+ days missed by Eric Lauer. Extra starter (and reliever) Aaron Ashby has been out all season with a shoulder problem but could return soon. Another decent depth starter, Jason Alexander, has been out for 101 days this season.

Woodruff (shoulder) hasn’t pitched since April 7. Lauer hasn’t pitched since May 20. Miley has two stints on the Injured List. The Brewers’ expected five-man rotation – Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Woodruff, Lauer and Miley – had started only 61 of the team’s 96 games through Thursday. The Brewers cushioned the blow by picking up starting pitchers Colin Rea and Julio Teheran and repurposing Houser back into a starter role.

The Milwaukee front office is ready to deal with trouble by having alternative plans ready to go. That’s quite a contrast to the St. Louis operation.

6. The same applies to the bullpen. Look, we know that Counsell does a masterful job in this critical area of managing. But there are times when I don’t understand how he can pull it off. This is one of those instances. Yes, the Brewers have one of the best closers in the game in St. Louisan Devin Williams. But here’s Milwaukee’s contingent of middle and setup relievers: Joel Payamps, Elvis Peguero, Hoby Milner, Bryce Wilson and Trevor Megill. And there are a couple of other dudes I’ve never heard of. With the help of the front office, Counsell almost always finds a way to protect a lead through the 27th out. The Cardinals have lost twice as many games (10) this season as the Brewers (5) when taking a lead into the seventh inning.

7. Here are few details on the lagging Milwaukee offense.

– They’ve coped with injuries to starting third baseman Luis Urias and outfielders Tyrone Taylor, Garrett Mitchell and Jesse Winker. Urias was so ineffective when returning from the IL, the Brewers demoted him to the minors. First baseman Rowdy Tellez has been bothered by injuries and is having a down season offensively.

– In terms of wRC+, the Brewers rank 30th offensively at the first base position, 29th at the DH spot, 27th at second base, 27th in center field and right field combined, and 21st at shortstop.

– The Brewers can, at least, push the offense with aggressive baserunning and base-stealing capability. They’re fourth in the NL with 79 steals and have a net baserunning gain of +30.

– The Crew ranks 13th in runs per game (4.16), 13th in OPS+, 14th in total bases, 15th in batting average, 15th in onbase percentage, 15th in slugging, and 15th in extra base hits.

– Among Brewers regulars, the only hitters that are above the league average in wRC+ are left fielder Christian Yelich, catcher William Contreras, infielder Andruw Monasterio and catcher Victor Caratini.

– Yelich is having his best season since 2019. Through Thursday he was 32 percent above league average offensively in wRC+ and batting .287 with a .376 OBP and .480 slug.

Brewers GM Matt Arnold is said to be looking for a bat or two to put more muscle in the lineup. We’ll see what he comes up with, but it’s a mistake to underestimate the Brewers. Their baseball operatives are as good as any team at finding supplementary talent. And they have a manager that can maximize his personnel. Even though the Brewers are sagging offensively, they can rely on pitching and defense to win games.

If the Cardinals can take care of their end by stacking more wins, they may have a chance to cut into the Milwaukee lead over the next 10 days. The Brewers will play six of their next nine games against the mighty Braves, with a three-game series vs. the Reds in the middle.

As of Friday morning FanGraphs gave the Cardinals a slim 8.8 percent chance to topple the Brewers and win the NL Central. And even if the Cardinals take a run at the Brewers, the second-place Reds will likely be in the way.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie hosts a weekday sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at or the 590 app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

The “Seeing Red” podcast on the Cardinals, featuring Will Leitch and B. Miklasz is available at, the 590 the fan app or your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible, Baseball Prospectus or Bill James Online.



Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.