- Associated Press - Saturday, October 8, 2011

A look at the best-of-seven National League championship series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers:

Schedule: (All times EDT) Game 1, Sunday, at Milwaukee (4:05 p.m.); Game 2, Monday, at Milwaukee (8:05 p.m.); Game 3, Wednesday, at St. Louis (8:05 p.m.); Game 4, Thursday, at St. Louis (8:05 p.m.); x-Game 5, Friday, at St. Louis (8:05 p.m.); x-Game 6, Sunday, Oct. 16, at Milwaukee (4:05 p.m. or 8:05 p.m.); x-Game 7, Monday, Oct. 17, at Milwaukee (8:05 p.m.). (All games on TBS).

x-if necessary.

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Season Series: Split, 9-all.

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Projected Lineups:

Cardinals: SS Rafael Furcal (.231, 8 HRs, 28 RBIs, 9 SBs with Dodgers and Cardinals), 2B Skip Schumaker (.283, 2, 38), 1B Albert Pujols (.299, 37, 99, 105 runs), RF Lance Berkman (.301, 31, 94, .412 OBP), LF Matt Holliday (.296, 22, 75, .388 OBP), C Yadier Molina (.305, 14, 65, both career bests), 3B David Freese (.297, 10, 55), CF Jon Jay (.297, 10, 37).

Brewers: RF Corey Hart (.285, 26 HRs, 63 RBIs), CF Nyjer Morgan (.304, 4, 37), LF Ryan Braun (.332, 33, 111, 33 SBs), 1B Prince Fielder (.299, 38, 120), 2B Rickie Weeks (.269, 20, 49), 3B Jerry Hairston Jr. (.270, 5, 31, 21 doubles, 337 ABs with Washington and Milwaukee), SS Yuniesky Betancourt (.252, 13, 68), C Jonathan Lucroy (.265, 12, 59).

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Projected Rotations:

Cardinals: LH Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56, 2 shutouts), RH Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.79 with White Sox and Cardinals; 5-2, 3.58 for St. Louis since trade-deadline deal), RH Chris Carpenter (11-9, 3.49, 237 1-3 innings, 191 Ks, 4 CGs, 2 shutouts), RH Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.49 ERA, 1 shutout).

Brewers: RH Zack Greinke (16-6, 3.83, 201 Ks, 171 2-3 innings), RH Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.54), RH Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52 ERA, 207 Ks, 207 1-3 innings), LH Randy Wolf (13-10, 3.69).

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Relievers:

Cardinals: RH Jason Motte (5-2, 2.25, 9/13 saves, 78 games), RH Fernando Salas (5-6, 2.28, 24/30 saves), RH Octavio Dotel (3-3, 3.28, 2 saves), LH Marc Rzepczynski (0-3, 3.97), LH Arthur Rhodes (0-1, 4.15), RH Mitchell Boggs (2-3, 3.56, 4 saves), RH Eduardo Sanchez (3-1, 1.80, 5 saves), RH Kyle McClellan (12-7, 4.19, 43 games, 17 starts, left off NLDS roster due to tired arm), RH Jake Westbrook (12-9, 4.66, 33 starts, 1.57 WHIP worst on staff).

Brewers: RH John Axford (2-2, 1.95, 46/48 saves, 74 games), RH Francisco Rodriguez (4-0, 1.86 in 31 games since trade from Mets; 6-2, 2.64, 23/29, 73 games overall), RH Takashi Saito (4-2, 2.03), RH LaTroy Hawkins (3-1, 2.42), RH Kameron Loe (4-7, 3.50, 72 games), RH Marco Estrada (4-8, 4.08), LH Chris Narveson (11-8, 4.45, 28 starts, 2 relief appearances).

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Matchups:

These division rivals have already played 18 times this year and don’t necessarily like each other, so it could be a testy series. Carpenter and Morgan have had a running feud all season _ the talk between the two during a game in August became so heated that third base umpire Mike Estabrook warned Morgan. Then in September, Morgan struck out and threw a wad of tobacco after he and Carpenter swore at each other. Pujols got involved as the benches emptied. No punches were thrown, but the outlandish Morgan insulted Pujols on his Twitter handle and posted that he hoped the Cardinals enjoyed watching the Brewers in the playoffs. The day before Game 1, Greinke said Brewers players don’t like Carpenter because they think he has a “phony attitude” when he barks at batters from the mound. … The two aces, Carpenter and Gallardo, could square off in Games 3 and 7. Both were rolling down the stretch and came through with clutch performances in the decisive Game 5s of their respective first-round series. Carpenter threw a three-hitter for a 1-0 win at Philadelphia, outpitching old pal Roy Halladay to finish off a stunning upset of the heavily favored Phillies. … St. Louis won six of the last seven meetings this season, including a three-game sweep at Miller Park in September. … These teams met in the 1982 World Series, back when Milwaukee was in the American League. Led by Ozzie Smith, Keith Hernandez and Series MVP Darrell Porter, the Cardinals beat Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and the rest of manager Harvey Kuenn’s powerful club, known as Harvey’s Wallbangers. Bruce Sutter saved a 6-3 win for Joaquin Andujar in Game 7. … That year, the Brewers defeated the California Angels in the ALCS _ the only postseason series they had won until edging NL West champion Arizona 3-2 in 10 innings Friday. Milwaukee switched over to the National League in 1998. … Pujols and Fielder can become free agents after the season and both big boppers could land a big payday. Fielder is expected to cost too much for Milwaukee, but if Pujols leaves St. Louis it would be a surprise. … Holliday is apparently recovered from an inflamed tendon on his right ring finger. He started the final two games of the NLDS and finished 2 for 9 in the series. Arguably, fill-in Allen Craig (.315, 11 HRs, 40 RBIs in 200 ABs) was more productive the last month. … Hairston, who has replaced slumping Casey McGehee (.223, 13, 67) at 3B for Milwaukee in the playoffs, went 6 for 16 (.375) with 2 doubles and 3 RBIs in the first round. … Furcal hit 5 of his 8 homers against Milwaukee this season. Pujols and Holliday each had 4 HRs. Berkman was held to a .196 average with 18 Ks in 56 at-bats. Schumaker batted .184, and the Cardinals had a .280 on-base percentage. … Lohse was 1-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 3 starts against the Brewers this year. Carpenter was 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 4 starts. … Morgan hit .368 against the Cardinals and Hairston was 9 for 23 (.391). Hart batted .313 with 5 HRs and 15 RBIs. Fielder was at .233 with 3 HRs and 11 RBIs, while Braun was .225 with 2 HRs and 7 RBIs. … Axford saved 4 games against the Cardinals this season, throwing 7 innings without allowing an earned run. He gave up 2 hits. … Gallardo was 1-3 with a 5.70 ERA in 4 starts vs. St. Louis. Greinke went 2-1 with a 3.15 ERA in 3 starts and Wolf was 3-2 with a 5.34 ERA in 5 starts. … Carlos Gomez, a right-handed hitter, might replace Morgan in CF against Garcia.

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Big Picture:

Cardinals: A resilient team that was written off after 20-game winner Adam Wainwright underwent reconstructive elbow surgery in February, St. Louis looked finished on Aug. 25, when it was 10 1/2 games behind the Braves for the wild card. The low point was getting swept in a three-game series against the Dodgers at home. At one point, manager Tony La Russa worried that his club might finish below .500. Having climbed a nearly impossible peak with the help of Atlanta’s collapse, the confident Cardinals (90-72) appear loose and determined. They’re dangerous, too, with a lineup anchored by the big three of Pujols, Holliday and Berkman finally producing with consistency. Carpenter became an ace again after Wainwright went down and the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner was a horse down the stretch, winning 10 of last 12 regular-season decisions following a 1-7 start. … The wild-card Cardinals are in the postseason for the ninth time in La Russa’s 16 seasons and second time in three years. They finished with seven more regular-season wins than the 2006 World Series champions. This playoff charge is as improbable as the one five years ago, when St. Louis backed into the postseason with 83 wins. … Heading into free agency for the first time, Pujols just missed extending his career streak of 10 consecutive seasons with 30 homers, 100 RBIs and a .300 batting average. … Deadline deals for Furcal and Jackson paid off, although Furcal struggled defensively down the stretch, committing five errors in a six-game stretch in the waning days. … The hard-throwing Motte was successful overall in an audition for the 2012 closer job after developing a reliable off-speed pitch to complement his high-90s (mph) fastball. He saved two games in the NLDS against Philadelphia. … The Cardinals overcame adversity down the stretch. Motte was wild as they blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning against the Mets in game No. 156. In game No. 157, McClellan gave up a tiebreaking homer in the eighth. And after dropping the playoff opener, St. Louis was down 4-0 to Cliff Lee in Game 2 at Philadelphia before rallying to win the game and the series. … St. Louis hit into an NL-record 169 double plays, breaking the mark set by the 1958 Cardinals, but compensated with a .273 average that was the best among playoff teams. The Cardinals also led the NL with 4.68 runs per game and a .288 average with runners in scoring position.

Brewers: Milwaukee won the NL Central for its first division title since capturing the AL East in 1982, the year the franchise made its only World Series appearance. It’s the fourth postseason appearance in the club’s 42-year history and second in four seasons. … Under rookie manager Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee (96-66) set a team record for wins. The Brewers had the best home record in the majors at 57-24 and were conversely the only squad to reach the postseason that had a losing record on the road. Milwaukee holds home-field advantage in this series. … From July 16 on, the Brewers went 23-11 on the road. But then they lost both games in Arizona during the division series. … Braun finished second for the NL batting title and signed a $105 million, five-year extension in April that keeps him under contract in Milwaukee until 2020. … Weeks severely sprained his left ankle on July 27, missed six weeks and returned even though he remains limited, especially moving laterally. He went 1 for 18 with a triple against Arizona. … Hart hit .302 with 14 HRs and 45 runs scored after taking over the leadoff spot from Weeks. … Milwaukee used a 27-5 stretch beginning July 26 to go from third place to first by 10 1/2 games in the NL Central. The Cardinals never came closer than 4 1/2 games with seven to play. St. Louis finished six games back. … Brewers GM Doug Melvin traded for Marcum and Greinke in the span of two weeks in December. Greinke missed the first month of the season after cracking a rib playing pickup basketball during spring training. … Melvin made two other notable trades, getting the eccentric Morgan just before the end of spring training and landing Rodriguez in July. Morgan brings speed, energy _ and a penchant for irritating opponents. He delivered the series-clinching hit vs. the Diamondbacks. … The Brewers managed to use just six starting pitchers all season, with Narveson as the fifth starter and Estrada picking up the starts Greinke missed over the first month. … Axford saved 42 straight to cl ose the season and converted 70 of 75 regular-season opportunities after taking over the role from Trevor Hoffman last May. Axford earned a save in the NLDS, then blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 5. But he recovered to keep the score tied and wound up with the win after working two innings. … Milwaukee’s bullpen had a 1.14 ERA over 71 innings in September.

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Watch For:

_ A Farewell To Albert? Pujols got a standing ovation before his final regular-season game at home and he’ll get at least two more doses of love from adoring St. Louis fans in the NLCS. The three-time MVP, who batted .350 with 3 doubles and an RBI in the NLDS, has had nothing of substance to say about his impending free agency since cutting off negotiations on a long-term deal before the start of spring training. Rather than allowing Pujols‘ situation to paralyze them, the Cardinals have already started planning for next season by signing Berkman to a one-year deal and Carpenter to a two-year extension. They’ve also stated interest in retaining Furcal.

_ Prince Under Pressure. The 27-year-old Fielder is one of the league’s premier sluggers, but he went 1 for 14 in four games in his first taste of the postseason in 2008 and wasn’t a factor. This time, he was 5 for 18 (.278) with a homer, 2 doubles and 3 RBIs in the first round vs. Arizona. Opponents often pitch around him, preferring to go after the weaker bottom of Milwaukee’s order, so Fielder must continue to show patience. He drew 107 walks during the regular season.

_ Spark Plug. The scrappy Schumaker, who can also play the outfield, went 6 for 10 in the NLDS with 2 doubles and 3 RBIs. He drove in the only run of the game against Halladay in the first inning of Game 5. However, Schumaker left each of the last two games in the series with injuries _ a hamstring problem in Game 4 and tightness in his right oblique in Game 5. He started one at 2B and the other in CF. His status for the NLCS opener was uncertain. Nick Punto and Ryan Theriot also are options at second base.

_ Braun’s Big Swings. In 2008, Braun hit a go-ahead, two-run homer on the final day to lift Milwaukee into the playoffs. Late this season, he hit a go-ahead, three-run shot on the night the Brewers clinched and called it eerily similar. Braun’s flair for the dramatic is matched by his plate discipline. He batted .500 (9 for 18) with a homer, 4 doubles and 4 RBIs in the first round.

_ Home Sweet Home. Milwaukee, the smallest media market in the league, drew a franchise-record 3 million fans for the third time in four seasons and set an all-time attendance record this year (3,071,373). The Brewers sold out Miller Park 37 times.