After a well-publicized scuffle, the Milwaukee Brewers are back atop the NL Central.
Milwaukee will try to make it back-to-back wins after television cameras caught the altercation earlier this week between manager Ned Yost and two players as the Brewers meet Cole Hamels and the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night.
A 24-10 start this season helped Milwaukee (59-51) open a sizable division lead. A prolonged slump, though, erased that edge and tempers flared in a 12-4 loss to the NL East-leading New York Mets on Thursday that included a heated skirmish between Yost, catcher Johnny Estrada and infielder Tony Graffanino.
The Brewers responded with a 2-1 win over Philadelphia (57-52) in the series opener on Friday night. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun each had RBI singles, rookie Yovani Gallardo allowed four hits over 6 2-3 innings and Francisco Cordero struck out the side in the ninth for his 33rd save.
The win, combined with the Mets’ 6-2 victory over Chicago earlier in the day, gave the Brewers a one-game lead over the Cubs in the NL Central.
“What happened yesterday happened. I think it’s going to be good for all of us. It just shows you the desire and intensity we all have to win,” Yost said. “Sometimes frustrations mount up a little bit and it’s good to get them off your chest for everyone.”
Estrada went 2-for-3 and is hitting .600 (9-for-13) over his last four games. He said the altercation was a “dead issue.”
“It’s something that happened and we’re just trying to put it past us and move on,” Estrada said.
Coming off one of his strongest outings of the season, Hamels (12-5, 3.50) will try to win his second straight start for the Phillies.
The left-hander limited the Cubs to a run and three hits with eight strikeouts over eight innings of a 4-1 win on Monday. He retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced, and also set down his last nine batters.
“That’s a big outing for us and he was tremendous,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.
On May 16, Hamels gave up two runs and two hits and struck out 11 in eight innings of a 6-2 home win over Milwaukee. He is second in the NL with 143 strikeouts.
The Brewers will look to Dave Bush (9-8, 4.87 ERA) after he earned his second victory in relief this season. He allowed one hit in one inning of Milwaukee’s 4-2 win in 13 innings over the Mets on Tuesday night.
“I feel like we earned one,” Yost said after Geoff Jenkins’ walk-off homer gave the Brewers just their second win in seven games. “We persevered and found a way to win that game.”
Bush has yet to record a decision in three career starts against the Phillies, including on May 14 when he allowed two runs and four hits over 5 1-3 innings of an 8-6 road loss. He has a 5.40 ERA in those games.
The right-hander is 2-1 with a 5.19 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break.
Pat Burrell homered Friday to account for the Phillies’ lone run. Burrell is hitting .514 (18-for-35) with four homers and 11 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak and has raised his overall batting average 34 points to .269.
Shortstop Jimmy Rollins singled in the first inning Friday to extend his hitting streak to 14 games, in which he’s batting .365 (23-for-63). He’s 4-for-10 with a homer against Bush.