After being the first team in the majors with 20 wins, the Milwaukee Brewers’ next challenge may be how to deal with success.
The Brewers wrap up a four-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park on Sunday looking for a third consecutive victory.
Milwaukee (20-10) moved a season-high 10 games over .500 with a 6-3 triumph Saturday. Jeff Suppan won his fifth consecutive start, and J.J. Hardy had a three-run homer as he extended his hitting streak to a career-high 16 games.
“We’re not going to get too caught up in it,” said Hardy, who’s hitting .418 (28-for-67) with seven homers and 22 RBIs during the streak. “I don’t think we’re going to go out there and change anything that we’re doing right now.”
A team known for strong starts and slow finishes, the Brewers are trying to reverse that trend and have built an early five-game lead in the NL Central. Milwaukee started 5-0 and was 16-14 after 30 games last year, only to finish 75-87 for its 14th consecutive non-winning season.
“Our focus is really just winning today and getting ready to win tomorrow,” said Suppan, the team’s key offseason acquisition.
Saturday’s victory ensured the Brewers, who have been .500 or better after 30 games eight times the last 14 years, would have no worse than a split in all nine of their series.
Ben Sheets (2-2, 4.25 ERA) will try to win consecutive starts for the first time this season for Milwaukee. The right-hander limited St. Louis to two runs in six innings of a 12-2 rout Tuesday, and the 11 runs of support were almost double the amount he received during a four-start winless streak.
Sheets, though, was more pleased with the adjustment to his delivery that brought the break back into his curveball.
“I finally made ‘the adjustment,’” Sheets told the Brewers’ official Web site. “I think it should bode well for me for my next few starts.
“My curveball got better. I think my command has been brutal all year on everything, and I thought the last three innings after I made the adjustment that things just seemed a little bit more normal.”
The Pirates (13-16) ran themselves out of a potential big inning in the sixth, after twice being caught in rundowns between third base and home.
“That is a play they teach you starting in Little League; you have got to mirror that guy. Whoever is in front of you, even if he goes and you’re out by a mile, you go and you mirror him,” Pittsburgh’s Adam LaRoche said. “That is a mental error that can’t happen in a game like that when we’re not scoring a ton of runs.”
The Pirates’ Tony Armas (0-2, 8.66) hopes to carry his recent success at home to the road in the series finale. The right-hander gave up just three runs in 11 innings over his last two starts but failed to register a decision either time.
This came after he was tagged for 14 runs and 15 hits in just 6 2-3 innings in losses at Cincinnati and Los Angeles. A lifetime 48-62 pitcher with a 4.54 ERA, Armas is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in as many starts against the Brewers, whom he limited to an unearned run and two hits in six innings in an 8-4 road victory on June 4.