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Gallardo hurls eight scoreless frames vs. Cards

This was not the position the Cardinals wanted to find themselves in heading into the finale of a pivotal series between the National League Central leaders. After dropping Wednesday's game, 5-1, St. Louis now faces what may be the biggest game of the season on Thursday. Having slipped to five games behind the Brewers, Tony La Russa's club may not be able to afford to be swept and fall six games behind Milwaukee with 44 games left on the schedule.

"It's more important to view it as, we just lost a series," La Russa said. "That's really the No. 1 focus. The only thing worse than losing a series is to lose all three in a series. I don't care who you play. We're still in August, and there's still games left. That's just the truth. They've got to keep winning, and ... we've got to keep winning."

Now 3-8 against the Brewers this season, the Cardinals must quickly find a way to get their big bats to produce and silence the Brewers' secondary producers in Casey McGehee, Yuniesky Betancourt and Nyjer Morgan, who have done much of the damage behind Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun.

"That's why the deeper the lineup, the better the chance you've got, because it's tough to give that same kind of attention where you're going to avoid the middle of the plate to everybody," La Russa said of the Brewers' lineup. "They've had some guys at the top hurt us. They've had other guys like McGehee. Whoever it is -- Betancourt has driven in runs against us. But in the end, it's about making pitches to as many guys as you can."

Conversely, the Brewers have done a very good job of silencing the Cardinals' biggest bats this season. Lance Berkman is hitting just .147 (5-for-34) and Albert Pujols is hitting only .119 (5-for-42) against Milwaukee. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said his pitchers have found the right formula by remaining aggressive with the St. Louis sluggers.

"The better the hitter, the more you have to pitch in," Roenicke said. "And when I'm talking about pitching in, I don't mean pitching in to hit somebody. I mean pitch in to get strikes in there when they know those guys have to protect that inside part of the plate. You need to throw strikes inside."

Roenicke will have the good fortune of turning to one of his aces to clinch the sweep. Yovani Gallardo takes the ball against St. Louis for the second time this season, having put together arguably his best performance of the year the first time. The right-hander tossed eight shutout innings with just one hit allowed and six strikeouts in St. Louis on May 7.

La Russa will hand the ball to Chris Carpenter, who the Cardinals manager hopes will pitch more like his last start than the previous outing on Aug. 1, in which the righty allowed five earned runs over five innings in Milwaukee. Carpenter earned the victory his last time out by holding the Marlins to one earned run over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts. Carpenter has yet to find the answer against Milwaukee, posting an 8.18 ERA over 11 innings in two starts this season.

Brewers: Morgan setting the table
Morgan is somewhat quietly putting together one of the best seasons of his career. To go with a .324 average, Morgan has already hit a career-high three home runs this season -- he entered 2011 with four career home runs in 342 games -- and with one more RBI will surpass his previous career high (27). Morgan has also remained very consistent throughout the season. He is currently hitting .318 (28-for-88) since the All-Star break, after hitting .327 in the first half.

Cardinals: Waiting on Jay
The Cardinals parted with Colby Rasmus confident that Jon Jay could help fill the void. However, since taking over in the everyday lineup on July 31, Jay is hitting just .178 (5-for-28) with two RBIs. He finally broke through with an extra-base hit on Wednesday, recording his 14th double of the season but just his first since the Rasmus trade.

Worth noting
Pujols tied Willie McGee for eighth place on the all-time games played list for the Cardinals at 1,661 games. He will next pass Ken Boyer (1,667 games), but has a long way to go before passing Stan Musial, who sits first all-time at 3,026 games played.

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