Coming off a sweep of the second-place team in the NL Central, the Houston Astros look to continue their success when they face the division’s top club Friday in the opener of a weekend home series with the struggling Milwaukee Brewers.
Houston (51-63) beat the Chicago Cubs 8-2 on Wednesday to finish a three-game sweep at Minute Maid Park. The Astros, who have won five of seven, are fourth in the NL Central, 8 1/2 games behind the Brewers (60-55), who were routed 19-4 at Colorado on Wednesday for their fourth straight loss.
“We hope (the sweep) gives us momentum with Milwaukee coming in here,” manager Phil Garner told the Astros’ official Web site. “We’ve got to continue our march to .500, and that’s the key for us.”
Milwaukee, though, is 7-2 against Houston in 2007 and will try for its fifth straight win over the Astros.
Houston, however, is 7-3 at home since the All-Star break and 31-25 at Minute Maid Park. The Brewers, meanwhile, are 21-35 on the road and will try to avoid a season high-tying seventh consecutive loss away from Miller Park.
“There’s only one thing to do, and that’s keep playing,” catcher Damian Miller told the Brewers’ official Web site. “You can’t dwell on what has happened the last three, four (games).”
Lee is batting .455 (15-for-33) with two homers while hitting safely in his last eight contests. The ex-Brewer is batting just .250 (9-for-36) against his former team this season, but has homered in two of his last three games against Milwaukee.
After Houston’s starters allowed two runs and struck out 20 over 20 innings against the Cubs, Jason Jennings (2-7, 6.11 ERA) hopes to continue that run of strong pitching when he takes the ball Friday.
Jennings allowed five runs and 10 hits over 6 1-3 innings in Houston’s 6-5, 12-inning loss at Florida on Saturday. The right-hander, who is 1-6 with an 8.31 ERA in his last eight starts, is 2-1 with a 3.56 ERA in five outings against the Brewers.
He allowed three runs in seven innings of a 6-1 loss to them on June 25.
The Brewers allowed their most runs Wednesday since the New York Yankees scored 19 against them on Sept, 25, 1996.
“They hit everything we threw up there,” said manager Ned Yost, whose team was outscored 36-10 and had an 11.25 ERA in being swept by the Rockies.
Though Milwaukee has lost 15 of its last 22 contests, it still holds a slim division lead over Chicago, which has also struggled of late.
Prince Fielder hit his 34th homer on Thursday for the Brewers. Fielder went 3-for-11 against Colorado, but two of those hits were homers.
Rookie second baseman Joe Dillon went 3-for-4 and could see more time after Tony Graffanino tore a ligament in his right knee Wednesday. Dillon is 5-for-8 since being called up from Triple-A Nashville on July 31.
Graffanino, who came down awkwardly after leaping to catch a line drive, will miss the rest of the season.
Dave Bush (9-8, 5.03) takes the mound for the Brewers on Friday. Bush allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings, but did not receive a decision in Milwaukee’s 6-5 win over Philadelphia on Saturday.
The right-hander has fared well against the Astros, going 4-1 with a 3.45 ERA in seven games - six starts. He is 1-1 in two starts against Houston this season, and pitched two innings of relief for the win in a 6-5, 11-inning victory on June 27.