After the Cardinals came through a challenging stretch with the National League Central lead, their schedule now sets up favorably as they try to hang on for the rest of the season.
St. Louis opens a three-game series against Milwaukee on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium, the first of 12 home games they will play out of their remaining 19 contests. Only three of those games -- a home set against the Nationals -- come against a club that currently holds a winning record. Meanwhile, the Pirates and Reds play each other six more times.
The Cardinals finished a three-game sweep of the Pirates on Sunday to grab a 1 1/2-game division lead. The victory closed a run of four consecutive series the Redbirds played against division challengers Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, which came after a set against the NL East-leading Braves. St. Louis went 10-7 over that span.
Manager Mike Matheny suggested he won't be holding anything back for the postseason, regardless of opponent.
"Now we've got to go. Can't be saving anything. We got to put it all out there," Matheny said before Sunday's 9-2 win over the Pirates. "And that goes back to respecting the opponent, respecting the game. We're going to take our best shot every single night; I know you guys have heard that saying for many years, but I think there's an awful lot of wisdom in that.
"I think it will play itself out as far as how the guys feel, especially the young guys. Over time, we'll see. Right now they're all responding well. There are going to be days where they need a little bit and we'll try and give it to them and err on the side of caution. ... We just got to push right now. We've got position players doing the same thing. In a perfect world, they'll be able to get a couple days, but it's not the time."
Matheny was referring in part to using his stable of young pitchers. One of them, right-hander Shelby Miller, will start on Tuesday against the Brewers' Wily Peralta.
Miller (12-9, 3.19 ERA) has enjoyed a strong rookie season, but the 22-year-old has struggled over his past two outings, giving up eight runs over 10 innings with seven walks and six strikeouts.
"I want the expectation level being there for our young guys," Matheny said. "I want them to feel that they can do this, they've done it and they're going to continue to do it. I want it to be a little bit of arrogance instead of ignorance. But controlled arrogance."
Milwaukee's own rookie starter has the chance to play spoiler. Peralta (9-14, 4.51 ERA) has been better away from Miller Park this season, with a 3.94 ERA in 14 outings, including three straight starts with no more than two runs allowed.
Peralta's last outing came against the Pirates on Wednesday in Milwaukee. He gave up nine hits and a walk over six innings, but held Pittsburgh to three runs and picked up the victory.
"I thought he made some really good pitches when he needed to, but he struggled," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He struggled with his command, and then all of a sudden on 3-2, he makes a great pitch, and he did it more than once. So when he needed to make [a pitch], he did."
Brewers: Davis targeting return
Left fielder Khris Davis, who missed all three games of the Brewers' weekend series against the Cubs, is hoping to make it back to the lineup on Tuesday. He has been bothered by a sore left wrist.
"[Davis was] an iffy [Sunday]," Roenicke said. "Hopefully with the off-day [Monday], we get him back in St. Louis and he can get back out in the outfield."
The rookie sports a .279/.341/.595 line in 123 plate appearances and he smacked his ninth homer in his most recent game on Wednesday against the Pirates.
Cardinals: Freese thawing out
It's been a subpar season for David Freese, but the Cardinals third baseman has been showing signs of getting something going. He started his fourth consecutive game on Sunday and went 2-for-4 with an RBI, making him 5-for-12 with two homers and four RBIs over that span.
Freese previously had lost some playing time to rookie second baseman Kolten Wong, with Matt Carpenter moving to third against right-handed pitchers. But Freese's improved play, combined with Wong's slow start, could put Freese back in an everyday role.
"This isn't about exposure [for Wong], taking a test drive here. This is about what's going to give us the best chance to win today," Matheny said. "David is going to be in there and [be] a big part of our lineup. He's a production player, and especially when you put into the equation the fact that an Allen Craig is on the sideline right now, we need some guys to produce."
• Carpenter's two hits on Sunday gave him 100 at Busch Stadium III this season, breaking Albert Pujols' record, set in 2008. Carpenter is the first Cardinals player with 100 hits at home since Pujols (111) and Edgar Renteria (103) at the former stadium in 2003.
• The Cardinals have a 10-3 lead in the season series, including 4-2 in St. Louis.
• Miller has a 1.47 ERA in three starts against the Brewers and a 1.92 ERA in 13 home starts.
• Peralta has surrendered 12 earned runs in 9 1/3 innings against the Cardinals this season.