After a slump lasting a month, the Milwaukee Brewers are back on their game. An easy stretch of the schedule probably isn’t hurting.
The NL Central-leading Brewers begin their second straight home series against a last-place opponent when they open a three-game set with the Kansas City Royals on Friday night.
Milwaukee (41-31) opened the season 24-10, but dropped 19 of 28 games from May 11-June 9, although the Brewers never relinquished the lead in a division where no other club owns a winning record. They have recovered to win eight of their last 10, including this week’s three-game sweep of slumping San Francisco, the last-place club in the NL West.
“I think we’re getting that feeling back again like we had,” Milwaukee reliever Brian Shouse told the team’s official Web site after a 7-5 win over the Giants in Wednesday’s series finale. “You can just see it: Things are going our way right now.”
A hot streak from Bill Hall has coincided with the Brewers’ resurgence. The center fielder had a grand slam and a career-high five RBIs on Wednesday, and is batting .394 (13-for-33) with two home runs, five doubles and 11 RBIs over the last 10 games to raise his season average from .250 to .270.
“I was kind of lying in the weeds, I guess,” Hall said. “I knew there would be times when the team needed me to get some big hits, and I was just hoping that I would be available to get those hits. I never put any pressure on myself.”
Milwaukee has scored five runs or more in seven consecutive games.
Hall and the Brewers will try to keep the strong offense going against one of their former teammates. The Royals acquired Jorge De La Rosa (4-8, 5.33 ERA) from Milwaukee for infielder Tony Graffanino last July 25, and the left-hander will face his old club for the first time in Friday’s series opener.
De La Rosa made 53 of his 61 appearances out of the bullpen in parts of three seasons with the Brewers. He worked exclusively as a starter for Kansas City until Wednesday night against St. Louis, giving up a homer to Ryan Ludwick to lead off the bottom of the 14th inning, sending the Royals (29-44) to a 7-6 loss.
“We had an awful approach offensively all night long,” said Kansas City manager Buddy Bell, whose club went scoreless over the final eight innings. “This is the big leagues and you’ve got to be aggressive up there. I’m not sure what we were doing.”
The Royals, at the bottom of the AL Central, dropped the final two games of their three-game set in St. Louis—their first consecutive defeats since losing three in a row June 3-5.
De La Rosa was effective early this season, going 4-3 with a 3.59 ERA in his first nine starts, but has stumbled to an 0-5 record and 9.36 ERA over his last six appearances.
In Saturday’s 9-8 loss to the Florida Marlins, De La Rosa gave up seven runs and a career-high 13 hits in 4 2-3 innings—the second straight start in which he failed to make it through the fifth.
The former Brewer will be opposed by Jeff Suppan (7-7, 4.69), who pitched for the Royals from 1998-2002.
Like De La Rosa, Suppan has fallen on hard times after a promising start to 2007. The right-hander compiled a 5-2 record and 2.63 ERA through his first seven starts, but has since gone 2-5 with a 6.75 ERA while giving up at least four earned runs in seven of his eight outings.
Suppan endured his worst start of the year Sunday at Minnesota, yielding nine runs and 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings, although he did not record a decision in the 10-9 defeat.
He is 1-3 with a 5.61 ERA in six career appearances, including five starts, versus Kansas City.
The Royals took two of three games between these teams last season.