The Cardinals have played the Brewers more than any other opponent this year, and their success in those matchups is one of the reasons they find themselves sitting atop the National League Central.
St. Louis brings its 6-1 record against Milwaukee into Friday night's series opener at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals, who swept a four-game set at Miller Park earlier this month, will send Jaime Garcia to the mound against Wily Peralta.
Although the Redbirds dropped their series finale against the Mets on Thursday afternoon to snap a three-game winning streak, they still enter the matchup having taken 12 of their past 15. The Brewers, on the other hand, have dropped 12 of their past 14.
But Ryan Braun said the fact that the Brewers have done this before -- they were 16-22 after 38 games in 2012 as well -- helps keep the clubhouse optimistic, though he'd surely rather that his team not be in this hole.
"Certainly, we'd prefer to start off better, but looking back at the last couple of years, we can draw from that experience of not getting off to a great start as a team, staying positive, continuing to work and finishing really strong," Braun said. "I think it definitely helps that we've been through it before. We've proven to ourselves that we can come back, but it would be a lot nicer and make it a lot easier on us if we started better."
Garcia (4-2, 2.88 ERA) is looking to become the fourth member of the Cardinals' staff to reach five victories, joining Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright. Entering Thursday, no other Major League club had three pitchers with five wins apiece.
Garcia has allowed only one run over 15 innings against the Brewers this season across two starts. He had a streak of three consecutive one-run starts broken up Sunday against the Rockies, who reached him for a season-high five runs on eight hits in six innings. The left-hander served up a pair of home runs, including his first since April 8.
"I made a couple mistakes and I paid the consequences," Garcia said. "They have a really good lineup."
Peralta (3-3, 5.40) has failed to register a quality start only once over his past five outings, and that was against the Cardinals on May 2 at Miller Park. He surrendered six runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings that time out. This will be his first time pitching at Busch Stadium.
The 24-year-old rookie right-hander sports a 1.49 WHIP for the season and has struck out three batters or fewer in six straight outings. He kept the Brewers in the game Sunday in Cincinnati, giving up four runs -- three earned -- on five hits in six innings.
"The last two outings, he's been more focused," catcher Martin Maldonado said. "Like I told you guys before, he can be as good as anybody in this game. He's calm 'down the hill,' good secondary stuff. I think he threw the ball great."
Cardinals: Some rest for the outfield
• Outfielders Matt Holliday and Jon Jay both got the day off Thursday, but are expected back in the lineup Friday.
Jay had hit safely in 11 of his past 12 games before a pinch-hit appearance on Thursday, going 18-for-41 (.439) with two home runs, three doubles and 12 RBIs in that span. He finished April with a .213 average that since has climbed to .274.
Holliday also has picked it up a bit of late, going 13-for-43 (.302) with a double, three homers and eight RBIs since May 3.
Brewers: Axford still looking for results
Since some early-season struggles that lost him the closer's role, right-hander John Axford has felt his mechanics and velocity come back. He said he feels good, but is frustrated by his continued rough outings.
Axford gave up the tying run in the eighth inning Tuesday against the Pirates. Although he came back to retire the only batter he faced Wednesday, he has been scored upon in three of his six outings this month and four of his past eight since a six-appearance scoreless streak.
He has a 9.00 ERA in 15 innings, although he has struck out 17. For now, manager Ron Roenicke is keeping the faith.
"I don't know; it's hard to figure out," Roenicke said Wednesday. "We still have confidence in him, and nothing seems to go right. So we'll see."
• The Brewers are 6-12 on the road this season.
• Milwaukee is the only team in the Majors that has yet to win a game when only scoring between one and three runs, going 0-13.
• Garcia has a 2.52 career ERA at home and a 2.75 ERA against the Brewers.