Sidelined since June 17, Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha will return to a Major League mound on Thursday night at Miller Park for the first time since going down with a right shoulder stress reaction. He will pitch opposite Brewers righty Wily Peralta in the opener of a four-game series between the National League Central's top two clubs.
St. Louis has a three-game lead over Milwaukee in the division.
The Cardinals plan to limit Wacha to roughly 50-60 pitches against the Brewers. He threw 34 pitches in two innings for Double-A Springfield on Sunday.
"Obviously, the Brewers are a great team. I plan on watching film on them and getting ready for that start," Wacha said. "I try not to think too much about who I'm facing, but rather go out there and concentrate on myself and the strike zone."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said his squad is looking forward to kicking off its eight-game road trip with a bang. After visiting Milwaukee, the Cards will travel to Cincinnati for four games.
"Everybody is amped up for this," Matheny said. "They will be, too. And there is every reason to be. That's what makes September baseball so much fun."
The Brewers hope Wacha still has some rust to shake off as they have lost eight straight games, stripping Milwaukee of its 149-day hold on first place in the NL Central.
Peralta takes the hill for Milwaukee hoping to move past back-to-back rough outings, during which he surrendered 13 earned runs in eight innings. He gave up 16 hits, walked five and struck out six.
"I fell behind on pretty much everybody, and that's what you're going to get," Peralta said after lasting only three innings against the Giants on Friday. "These past two starts have been terrible."
The two starts followed a dominant seven-start stretch for Peralta that lowered his ERA to 3.27. He went 6-1 with a 1.59 ERA, became the first pitcher in the Majors to reach 14 wins on Aug. 7, and picked up his 15th win 10 days later.
"I don't know," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Peralta's struggles. "We need to get him right, get him back where he's going deep in games, and obviously keeping the run total down."
Cardinals: Holliday coming through in clutch
Outfielder Matt Holliday has brought home the winning run in four of St. Louis' past six wins, upping his Major League-leading total of game-winning RBIs this season to 21.
Holliday needs only four more game-winning RBIs to tie the single-season franchise record of 25, set by Albert Pujols in 2006.
Brewers: Braun misses finale, expecting first child
Ryan Braun was not in the lineup for Wednesday's series finale against the Cubs after returning to Milwaukee to be with his wife as they expect the birth of their first child.
Roenicke was unsure if the right fielder would be with the team Thursday for the series opener.
Braun's wife was in labor during Roenicke's pregame press conference in the Wrigley Field dugout, the manager said.
• St. Louis owns the best September record in the Majors since 2011 at 56-28.
• The Cardinals play 17 of their final 23 games against NL Central foes. They have a 36-23 record against the division.
Joe Morgan is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.