The Brewers look to regain the form that led them to their best first-half finish in more than two decades against a resurgent Rockies team going for their sixth win in seven games when the clubs open a three-game series at Miller Park on Friday night.
Milwaukee (49-39) had its best first half since 1982, when it entered the All-Star break with a 48-35 record en route to a franchise record-tying 95 wins and its only World Series appearance in the team’s 38-year history.
The Brewers, though, lost five of their last six games and finished with a 3-7 record on a road trip to close out the first half. They capped the swing with a 7-2 loss to Washington on Sunday in which they managed only six hits and fell to 19-26 away from home.
Milwaukee, which led the NL Central by 8 1/2 games on June 23, begins play with a 4 1/2-game lead over the second-place Chicago Cubs.
“I think that we can play better, and I think that we will play better in the second half,” Brewers manager Ned Yost told the team’s official Web site. “But our guys made good strides in a lot of areas on the field and I look forward to continuing that in the second half.”
The Rockies (44-44), meanwhile, went 5-1 on a six-game homestand before the break, averaging 8.5 runs per game while batting .377. They had a five-game win streak snapped with an 8-4 loss to Philadelphia in their first-half finale on Sunday.
“You never want to lose a game, but the reality of it is you’re going to lose some,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.
The strong homestand helped the Rockies back into the NL West race, 5 1/2 games behind first-place San Diego. But Colorado hasn’t had as much success on the road, where its pitching staff has posted a 7.61 ERA over the last 10 games.
Colorado is 1-9 in its last 10 away from Coors Field. That doesn’t bode well as the Rockies haven’t won in Milwaukee since 2004. They’ve been outscored 42-11 in suffering consecutive three-game sweeps there over the last two seasons.
The Rockies will now face Chris Capuano (5-6, 4.78 ERA), who is winless in two starts since returning from a groin injury that sidelined him for over two weeks. The left-hander allowed seven runs and eight hits over 5 1-3 innings of Sunday’s defeat at Washington.
He has lost six straight decisions overall since a 3-0 win over the Nationals on May 7.
“You make any situation into a positive,” Capuano said. “If you’re rolling in the first half you say, ‘OK, let’s continue it.’ If you’re struggling in the first half like I have, obviously, you say, ‘Hey, we have a new season coming up. Go home and charge the batteries.’
“That’s certainly the way I’m looking at it. You can’t change anything that happened in the first half. You just start fresh.”
Capuano is 4-2 with a 1.70 ERA in six starts versus Colorado, but Rockies All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday is 7-for-15 with a home run against him.
Prince Fielder, who started at first base for the NL All-Star team, leads the league with a career-high 29 homers. Fielder is looking to become the fifth Brewers first baseman with 30 homers, joining Cecil Cooper, John Jaha, George Scott and Richie Sexson.
Jeff Francis (8-5, 3.87) takes the mound for the Rockies, who have won seven of the left-hander’s last nine starts.
Francis has won three straight decisions, but didn’t receive one in last Friday’s 7-6, 11-inning loss to Philadelphia. He allowed six runs and 12 hits in five innings.
Francis is 4-2 with a 3.12 ERA in eight road starts this season, but is 0-2 with a 9.28 ERA in his career against Milwaukee.