The Milwaukee Brewers are clinging to the NL Central lead, but insist their spirits are high.
The Brewers (60-53) led the Central by 8 1/2 games over the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis on June 23 but now have just a one-game advantage over the second-place Cubs, who briefly led the division by percentage points last week - the first time Milwaukee hasn’t held the top spot since April 20.
Milwaukee lost 6-2 in Monday’s series opener, but maintained their margin as Chicago lost 2-1 in 10 innings to Houston.
“Our attitude remains fine,” said Milwaukee’s Geoff Jenkins, who went 2-for-3 Monday. “We’ve lost some tough games the last couple of weeks, but we’re still right there in the thick of things.”
The Brewers have dropped 12 of their last 18, but were hoping for a boost in this series. They had won 14 of 18 against the Rockies (57-54) and six of nine in Denver coming into the set. Prince Fielder hit his NL-leading 33rd homer and rookie Ryan Braun added his 21st in Monday’s loss.
Now, Milwaukee will need to figure out a way to win behind Capuano (5-8, 4.86 ERA), who’s 0-8 with a 6.27 ERA in 13 starts - all Brewers losses—since beating Washington on May 7.
Capuano dropped his second straight start Thursday, giving up five runs and a season-high 10 hits in six innings of a 12-4 loss to the New York Mets.
“I’m not thinking about that,” Capuano told the Brewers’ official Web site of his winless streak.
Capuano has historically fared well against Colorado, going 4-2 with a 2.58 ERA in seven career starts - his best ERA against any NL team - and 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA in three outings at Coors Field. However, he gave up five runs in three innings in Milwaukee’s 10-6 home loss to Colorado on July 13, escaping without a decision.
Colorado will counter with Jason Hirsh (4-7, 4.91), who is making his second start since a stint on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle. He gave up three runs and six hits, including two homers, but matched a career high with eight strikeouts without getting a decision in the Rockies’ 4-3 win in Florida on Thursday.
“It was a challenge for Jason, coming back after being gone awhile,” Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said. “That was good step forward for him.”
Hirsh won both of his previous starts against the Brewers, each of which came last season in Milwaukee while with Houston. He allowed a total of five runs in 11 1-3 innings for a 3.97 ERA in those outings.
Hawpe was in a 2-for-21 slump heading into the game.
“I’ve been struggling of late and needed something like that,” Hawpe said. “I got a good pitch and made a good swing to get it out of the park.”