Shelby Miller experienced a small portion of the St. Louis Cardinals' pennant race last season, though he was in a role that didn't carry the same significance as what he's been trusted with this year.
With the Cardinals' NL Central lead down to one game, Miller looks to win his third straight start and beat the host Milwaukee Brewers for the fourth time Friday night.
Miller (14-9, 3.01 ERA) has pitched very well in his first full season after making five relief appearances and one start in September of last year. He also pitched twice in relief the NL championship series as St. Louis lost in seven games to San Francisco.
The right-hander, who became the first Cardinals rookie to win 14 games since Dick Hughes won 16 in 1967, now is trying to help St. Louis (89-64) push toward a division title. It leads Pittsburgh by one game and Cincinnati by two with nine to play after its 7-6, 15-inning loss to Colorado on Thursday.
"Last year, I pitched in games when we were down or we were winning by a lot and I had a role, but it wasn't near as big as it is this year," Miller told the team's official website. "This year, there's more pressure on my part as far as knowing that when I take the ball every five days we've got to get a win, no matter what. We're trying to win this thing, not just the division but the whole thing."
Miller can help St. Louis increase its chances of winning the Central with another dominant performance against Milwaukee on Friday. He's 3-0 with a 1.08 ERA while striking out 25 and allowing three runs in 25 innings.
Jean Segura is 0 for 12 with five strikeouts against Miller, though its unclear if the Brewers' rookie shortstop will play this series as he nurses a strained right hamstring.
The All-Star sat out Thursday's 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs after suffering the injury while scoring from second base in Wednesday's 7-0 win. Manager Ron Roenicke said he's not going to rush Segura back, especially with nothing to play for.
"He's day to day," Roenicke said. "And I say day to day, but that doesn't mean tomorrow. We're not going to be dumb about this. I'd like to get him back out there, but not at the risk of putting him out there too early."
The Brewers (68-84) had won four straight and six of seven prior to Thursday's defeat, mustering only four hits. They've been outscored by 32 runs while dropping 12 of 16 meetings with the Cardinals this season.
St. Louis is averaging 7.0 runs over its last five games. Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran and David Freese each had two hits in Thursday's loss, while Matt Holliday finished 3 for 4 with three walks and two RBIs.
Holliday went 8 for 12 over the final three games of the four-game split with Colorado.
The Cardinals look to win for the seventh time in eight meetings at Miller Park this season as they face the struggling Johnny Hellweg on Friday.
Hellweg (1-4, 8.31) will be making his sixth start of his rookie season after allowing four runs and eight hits in five innings while suffering a 7-3 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday. He hit three batters, and he's walked 17 in 21 2-3 innings in six appearances overall.
The 6-foot-9 right-hander has yet to face St. Louis.