The Milwaukee Brewers’ latest stay atop the NL Central was a short one.
They’ll work on getting back to the top spot in a four-game series with the Atlanta Braves beginning Thursday night at Turner Field.
The Brewers (78-73) saw their four-game winning streak snapped with a 10-inning, 5-4 defeat at Houston on Wednesday. One night after moving into a virtual tie for the division lead, they fell a game behind the Chicago Cubs, who beat Cincinnati.
Milwaukee has 11 games remaining, while the Cubs have nine.
“We’ve played two less games (than the Cubs), so we’ve got to win a significant number of games down the stretch,” said starter Dave Bush, who pitched six innings Wednesday. “Every game’s important. Obviously, we’d like to win them all.”
Prince Fielder hit his NL-leading 47th home run and is hitting .383 (23-for-60) with eight homers during a 17-game hitting streak. Second baseman Rickie Weeks hit a two-run homer in the ninth off Astros closer Brad Lidge to force extra innings, but Houston outfielder Hunter Pence singled home the winning run the following inning.
The Brewers lead the majors with 215 homers and need one more to match the team record, set in 1982.
Chicago is idle on Thursday, but Milwaukee starter Jeff Suppan (10-11, 4.73 ERA) could have a tough time helping the Brewers pick up a half-game on the Cubs. He has lost each of his three previous starts against the Braves (79-73), allowing 16 runs in 13 2-3 innings for a 9.22 ERA - his highest against any opponent.
However, Suppan, who has not faced Atlanta this season, has allowed three or fewer earned runs in each of his last six starts. He yielded three runs in 6 1-3 innings of Saturday’s 5-3 win over Cincinnati, improving to 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA over his last four outings.
The Braves have won four straight - one shy of their season high - and are coming off a three-game sweep of Florida. They matched their win total from last season with Wednesday’s 5-1 win, but are 5 1/2 games behind both the NL East-leading New York Mets and NL wild card leader San Diego with 10 games remaining.
But while Atlanta’s playoff chances are remote, Chipper Jones and Edgar Renteria are competing for a batting title. Jones had two hits and is batting .339, while Renteria had three hits, including a homer, to increase his average to .338. Colorado’s Matt Holliday leads the NL with a .340 average.
The last Atlanta player to win the NL batting crown was current hitting coach Terry Pendleton, who hit .319 in his 1991 MVP season.
“I think anybody would cherish a batting title,” Jones said. “That puts you in elite company. Neither one of us by any means thinks that we’re Tony Gwynn. But this opportunity doesn’t come around that often.”
The Braves purchased the contract of Jeff Bennett from Triple-A Richmond on Wednesday and will send him to the mound for his first major league outing since 2004 with Milwaukee, and the first start of his career. The right-hander went 1-5 with a 4.79 ERA in 60 relief outings for the Brewers in his only season in the majors.
Bennett, who sat out last season after having elbow ligament replacement surgery, was 3-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 36 games, including six starts, for Richmond.
“His arm is all mended and ready to go,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “It took him all year, I guess, to really strengthen his arm.”