MILWAUKEE -- The Cardinals arrived in Milwaukee charged with halting a Brewers club coming off consecutive sweeps of the Red Sox, Phillies and Pirates. Now, the Brewers must stave off being swept themselves.
With wins in the first two games of the series, St. Louis has set itself up with a chance to earn its first sweep of the season -- an achievement that would also push them into an early first-place tie with Milwaukee atop the National League Central division. First pitch for Wednesday's series finale is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. CT at Miller Park.
"This is a good team," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We don't take any out, any batter for granted here, because this is a team that has shown the rest of baseball what we know they've got. We just have to keep the kind of focus we have and just control our game. We know this is going to be a good team. We keep talking about it, but it's worth talking about. The National League Central is going to be tough, and these guys are going to be right there."
St. Louis has been a recent nemesis to the Brewers, who have lost 25 of their past 36 games to the Cardinals since falling to their division rival in the 2011 postseason. In the first two games of this series, the Brewers mustered one run on six hits. The Cardinals' pitching staff struck out 23.
"Um, if we want to win, we've got to beat good pitching," Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez said after Tuesday's 6-1 loss. "Of course we do have good pitching in the division. St. Louis has some good arms, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, so if we want to be successful in this division, we have to be able to hit some good pitching."
The Brewers will see more of it on Wednesday with Joe Kelly making the start against them. Since being named the team's fifth starter out of Spring Training, Kelly has allowed one earned run in 11 1/3 innings. Often overlooked in a rotation that features one of the best pitchers in baseball and some top young talent, Kelly has emerged as especially reliable.
Since joining the Cardinals' rotation full time last summer, Kelly has pitched into the sixth inning 14 of his 17 starts and allowed two or fewer runs in 13 of those.
The Brewers will counter with Wily Peralta, who has helped Milwaukee to wins in each of his first two starts this season.
Cardinals: Craig on the cusp?
Liking the swing he saw from Craig in a 1-for-4 performance on Monday, Matheny on Tuesday moved his right fielder up to the No. 2 place in the lineup for the first time this season. Craig responded with his first extra-base hit of the season, an RBI double that the Cardinals hope is further indication that Craig is finding his timing.
His average is still lagging at .143, but Craig enters Wednesday having hit safely in four straight games. His stay in the second spot of the order, though, is likely to be short lived. With Kolten Wong expected back in the lineup, Craig will probably fall back down into the middle of the order.
"Ideally, you envision Allen being in a position in the lineup where he can produce runs, because he's got the knack for it," Matheny said. "[Tuesday] was a good day for him."
Brewers: Bullpen streak ended
When Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta homered off Brewers reliever Jim Henderson in the ninth inning Tuesday, it ended a scoreless streak for Milwaukee's bullpen at 18 1/3 innings and marked a step back for Henderson. He was removed from the closer's role before the season began so he could work on reclaiming lost velocity and command.
Before Tuesday, he had worked six scoreless appearances.
"It's a little hard to figure out," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "The first [home run] pitch he threw was at the knees or maybe a little lower than that, but it's a place that Holliday is really good. The other was a hanging slider. He threw some good sliders today but hung the one to Peralta, and that's what he have to get away from. He threw some good fastballs and some good sliders, but we have to get him consistent."
• Mark Ellis returned from the disabled list on Tuesday and was immediately inserted into the Cardinals' lineup. He drove in two runs, though most starts at second base are still expected to go to Wong.
• Wednesday's will be the last game at Miller Park between these two teams until a July 11-13 series immediately preceding the All-Star break. In between, they will meet in St. Louis to close out this month.
• Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg has retired 17 consecutive hitters over his past five outings, including three Cardinals on Tuesday.
• The Brewers have scored one total run in their past three losses.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.