When the Brewers look at the Cardinals, they see momentum personified.
A few weeks ago, when the two teams met for the first time, St. Louis shut Milwaukee out twice and was close to a series sweep, but the Brewers leveraged a late comeback into a victory that kicked off a nine-game winning streak. The Brewers, who started 2-8, finished the opening month at 14-11 and will be thrilled to see the Cardinals again on Thursday.
"Whether that was the spark that started everything, I don't know," said manager Ron Roenicke. "It kind of looked like it."
The Brewers were shut out for seven innings in that series finale against St. Louis, but Ryan Braun hit a two-run homer in the eighth that turned the team's fortunes around. Milwaukee went on to sweep the Giants and Cubs at home before taking two of three from the Padres in San Diego, and the Brewers go into Thursday with three wins in their past five games.
The Cardinals hold a half-game edge over the Pirates in the jam-packed National League Central division, and the Brewers are just 1 1/2 games out of first place. Fourth-place Cincinnati is one game over .500 and two games out of first place.
St. Louis has won two straight games following a three-game slide, and it's currently playing through a stretch of 12 straight games against division rivals. The Cardinals lost two of three to Pittsburgh before taking two of three from the Reds, and they'll play four games against the Brewers and two more against the Cubs before the stretch ends.
Veteran Jake Westbrook will get the ball in Thursday's series opener for St. Louis, and he'll be matched against Wily Peralta of the Brewers. Westbrook has allowed zero earned runs in three of his first four starts this season, including six shutout innings in a no-decision against Pittsburgh last weekend. Westbrook's next victory will be No. 100 for his career.
Peralta has pitched into the sixth inning in all but one of his starts this season, and he's logged two straight victories. Peralta is 1-1 with a 6.19 ERA in three home starts this season, and he beat the Cubs at home two starts ago.
Third baseman David Freese has been held out of the starting lineup in each of the past two games for the Cardinals, but he'll likely be back in the mix for Thursday's series opener.
Cardinals: Beltran on a roll
Carlos Beltran is red-hot, and he homered for the seventh time this season in Wednesday's 4-2 victory over Cincinnati. The switch-hitter homered from both sides of the plate last Friday, and he batted .307 with a .351 on-base percentage in the season's opening month. Beltran, 36, is a career .282 hitter in April.
Beltran is batting .308 with three homers in 15 road games this season, but he's had a rough track record against the Brewers. Beltran is a .282 career hitter, but he's batting .256 (56-for-219) in 60 career games against Milwaukee.
Brewers: Weeks trying to find comfort zone
The Brewers are still waiting for Rickie Weeks to hit his stride. Milwaukee's second baseman had three hits and three runs scored in a victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday, but he'll go into Thursday's series opener batting just .186. Weeks has had just three multihit games, and his batting average hasn't been higher than .242 since the eighth game of the season.
• Despite Westbrook's sterling 0.98 ERA, the Cardinals are 1-3 in his starts this season.
• The Brewers hope to get third baseman Aramis Ramirez back from a sprained left knee at some point in the next few days.
• The Cardinals went 9-6 against the Brewers last season, and the two teams played to a 9-9 series split during the 2011 campaign.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.