Though the Cardinals secured a 6-2 win on Thursday against the Padres, the Brewers enter this weekend's pivotal series against St. Louis with a two-game lead in the National League Central.
But even with a third team, the Pirates, threatening Milwaukee for first place, manager Ron Roenicke doesn't view the upcoming set against the Cardinals as any more crucial in terms of playoff implications.
"It is important now, because we need to get back on that right track," said Roenicke, whose Brewers are 7-6 since the All-Star break. "If we don't, in a month and a half, it may not matter. That's why they are all important."
Though there's been some flux in the Cardinals' rotation, as the team acquired Justin Masterson and John Lackey before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, they'll send a familiar face to the mound Friday as Adam Wainwright will open the series. The righty, who is 13-5 with a 1.92 ERA on the season, won in his only start against Milwaukee this year, a seven-inning, two-run effort on July 12.
In his last start against the Cubs, Wainwright allowed five hits over seven scoreless innings in a win. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny showed his faith in his ace by letting Wainwright bat in the seventh inning with two outs and the bases loaded.
"It's all about pitching at that point," Matheny said. "We were having a hard time getting something going offensively, and we could roll the dice. ... We've got one of the best pitchers in the league on the mound. And to me, especially where his pitch count was, I want him going back out there to throw."
Friday's matchup continues a stretch of tough pitching opponents for the Brewers. Rays right-hander Alex Cobb surrendered just one run on three hits over eight innings on Tuesday night before the Brewers took on David Price in Wednesday's finale.
"I think it's a mixture. I think it's night to night," Roenicke said, giving due credit to some recent ace-like pitching. "Some of the other pitchers we've faced, we should have hit better, there's no question. So I think it's both. But night to night, it just depends on who's out there."
The Brewers will send Wily Peralta to the mound to face Wainwright. The right-hander is 12-6 with a 3.56 ERA this season, and in three starts since surrendering nine earned runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Phillies on July 8, Peralta sports a 1.37 ERA.
Brewers: Crew picks up left-handed bat with Parra acquisition
Gerardo Parra did not immediately know where he fit into his new team's outfield mix, but he knew one thing about the Milwaukee Brewers.
"They play hard, and they play happy," Parra said in a telephone conversation minutes after a trade sent him from Arizona to Milwaukee. "I love that."
The Brewers like Parra's defense at all three outfield positions and his left-handed bat, so they parted with a pair of Minor League prospects to pry him from the D-backs on Thursday, about two hours before the Deadline.
Parra was scheduled to travel to St. Louis on Friday in time for the Brewers' series opener at Busch Stadium. Assuming he arrives in time, the Brewers will option outfielder Logan Schafer to Triple-A Nashville to create roster room.
Cardinals: Departures of Craig, Kelly hit team hard
Before the Cardinals began to digest the addition of a second starting pitcher in as many days, they had to first swallow some difficult goodbyes.
In acquiring veteran right-hander John Lackey from the Red Sox on Thursday, the Cardinals parted with Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, two players drafted and developed by the organization and both quite popular among their now-former teammates. It left those in the clubhouse who were preparing for a day game against the Padres subdued and shocked.
"It's a tough morning for us, no question," Matheny said. "We ask these guys from Day 1 to buy into the fact that we're in this thing together and we're going to be together more than we are probably with the majority of our family, to buy into the fact that we are all here for each other, to buy into the culture and everything that this organization stands for. To see guys who have bought into that and then you're seeing them pack up their stuff to go, yeah, there is a business here, but we're asking for more than just business. That makes it difficult."
Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak met with both Craig and Kelly once the trade was official, though by then both players had already learned of the deal while watching the clubhouse television. Neither was prepared for the possibility of leaving, and it was evident in their immediate reactions.
Both Kelly and Craig have endured their share of adversity this season. Kelly recently returned to the rotation after missing nearly three months recovering from a hamstring strain. He earned a starting job out of Spring Training after playing a critical role in helping stabilize the Cardinals' rotation the second half of last season.
• Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez got the day off from the field on Wednesday when he started as the designated hitter vs. the Rays. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
Daniel Popper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.