For the first time since April, the Milwaukee Brewers are looking up in the NL Central.
They’ll try to move back on top of the division Thursday when they wrap up a three-game home series with the NL East-leading New York Mets.
The Brewers’ 8-5 loss on Wednesday, combined with Chicago’s 5-4 win over Philadelphia, moved the Cubs a fraction of a percentage point (.5377 to .5370) ahead of Milwaukee in the Central. The Brewers (58-50) had been on top of the division since April 21 and led by 8 1/2 games as recently as June 23.
“I take it like we’re tied the whole way through,” first baseman Prince Fielder said. “Every game’s important, not only the series. I think every game is important.”
Fielder did manage to snap a personal power slump on Wednesday, homering for the first time since July 13 in the first inning. The 18 games and 67 at-bats in between home runs were both season highs.
“That’s how baseball is,” said Fielder, who leads the NL with 31 homers. “You hit a lot and they come in bunches. If I could hit ‘em every time I would. It’s not that easy.”
The Mets (60-47) won for just the third time in seven games and bounced back after the bullpen blew Tom Glavine’s chance for his 300th win in Tuesday’s 13-inning, 4-2 loss. They have been on top of the East since May 16 and hold a 3 1/2-game lead over second-place Atlanta.
In the finale, the Mets will hand the ball to Brian Lawrence, who is making his first appearance in the majors since 2005 with San Diego. The Mets signed Lawrence, who had shoulder surgery in March 2006, to a minor league contract on May 9 after he was designated for assignment by Colorado.
He went 8-2 with a 3.87 ERA in 12 starts for Triple-A New Orleans.
“We signed him just for this kind of situation,” assistant general manager John Ricco told the Mets’ official Web site. “He’s a guy with major league experience. He’s earned this.”
Jorge Sosa was originally scheduled to start, but he threw two innings of relief in Tuesday’s game and will continue to work out of the bullpen.
Lawrence went 49-61 with a 4.10 ERA in 162 appearances - 146 starts - for the Padres from 2001-05. He is 1-3 with a 5.04 ERA in five career starts against the Brewers.
Milwaukee will counter with Chris Capuano (5-7, 4.70), who is 0-7 with a 6.16 ERA in 12 starts since his last win against Washington on May 7. The Brewers have lost each of those outings.
He owns a respectable 2.95 ERA over his last three starts, but gave up four runs in 6 1-3 innings of Saturday’s 5-2 loss at St. Louis.
“I tried to have a clean slate a few games ago, and just start over,” Capuano, who won 18 games in 2005, told the Brewers’ official Web site. “I really don’t think about that streak.”
Capuano has struggled against the Mets, going 0-3 with a 6.04 ERA in four career starts. He gave up four runs in four innings in his only start against them this season, a 9-1 defeat on May 13 at Shea Stadium.