Coming off another strong showing at the plate, the Brewers look to complete a home series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday when they try to further cut into the Chicago Cubs’ lead in the NL Central.
Tuesday’s 9-1 victory over the Cardinals moved Milwaukee (81-76) to within two games of the Cubs, who lost 4-2 at Florida earlier in the evening.
“Every game is a big one now,” said Milwaukee’s Wednesday starter Carlos Villanueva. “We never give up. We give everything we have.”
Milwaukee has outscored the depleted Cardinals 22-6 and hit six homers in winning the first two games of its season-ending seven-game homestand after going 3-4 on its final road trip.
The Brewers lead the majors with 225 home runs.
Fielder homered twice Tuesday, making him the youngest player to hit 50 in a season.
The 23-year-old NL MVP candidate, drove in four runs and is 5-for-7 with three homers and seven RBIs through the first two games of the series. Fielder surpassed Willie Mays, who was 24 when he hit his 50th in 1955.
Fielder’s reaction to reaching the 50-homer mark, though, prompted a rant from the All-Star about his estranged father, Cecil.
“That’s why I’m so passionate about playing,” said Fielder, who also stated he wanted to hit 52 homers and win the MVP - two feats his father never accomplished. “I don’t mind them comparing me, but I’m totally a different player. Hopefully one day, whenever they mention my name, they won’t have to mention his.”
After roughing up St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper for 16 runs - 11 earned - in the first two games, Milwaukee will try for similar success against Cardinals starter Brad Thompson and clinch its first winning season since going 92-70 in 1992.
Thompson (7-6, 4.96 ERA) allowed one run and four hits in six innings of a 7-4 victory over Houston on Saturday for his first win in eight starts dating to June 19.
Used mostly out of the bullpen this season, the right-hander, who is 5-4 in 16 starts, hopes to be a contender for a starting spot in 2008. The Cardinals are 11-5 in games he’s started.
“I’d like to come in fighting for a starting job,” Thompson told the Cardinals’ official Web site. “It’s been one of those years. It’s been weird. It hasn’t been necessarily a good year for me, but it’s been a big learning experience.”
Milwaukee’s Villanueva (8-4, 3.97) will be making his fifth straight start.
Villanueva, who like Thompson has spent a majority of his short career as a reliever, is 2-1 with a 1.55 ERA in five starts and allowed one run and three hits in six innings of a 4-1 victory at Atlanta on Friday.
The right-hander went 1-0 with a 1.17 ERA in two 2006 starts against the Cardinals.
St. Louis’ Albert Pujols went 2-for-3 on Tuesday in his second straight start as he continues to deal with a lingering calf muscle strain. Pujols, who is batting .400 (22-for-55) with three homers and 13 RBIs against Milwaukee in 2007, needs one RBI to become the first player to reach 100 in each of his first seven seasons.
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