Milwaukee was favored to win the NL Central from day one, after their offseason acquisitions of starters Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Both had solid, but not dominating, seasons, and the Brewers ran away with the division mainly from the offensive contributions of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. They got some much-needed bullpen help with the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez from the Mets in July; he helped lock down the last two innings along with closer John Axford.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, trailed the Braves for the wild card by 10½ games on Aug. 25; they combined an 18-8 September with an Atlanta collapse to make the playoffs on the regular season's final day.
The teams split their regular season series, winning nine games each; each club went 5-4 in the series in its home park.
Then both clubs survived tense, one-run Game 5s in the division series round to make the championship series. Until this season, no NL Central champion had even won a single game in the playoffs since 2006 (the Brewers did win one game as the NL wild card in 2008).
The series gets underway in Milwaukee Sunday afternoon. Who will win? Vote in our poll.