Not only will center fielder Mike Cameron finally make his Brewers debut after serving a 25-game suspension for testing positive twice for a banned stimulant, but staff ace Ben Sheets is expected to be back on the mound after missing his last start due to soreness in his right triceps.
Having both on the field should only help Milwaukee (14-11), which has lost three of four and will face a first-place Cubs team that’s 16-9 but has also dropped three of four after winning six in a row.
Milwaukee is making its second trip of 2008 to Wrigley after opening the season there, taking two of three from March 31-April 3.
“It’s important - they’re all important in your own division,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella told the team’s official Web site about the upcoming series.
Sheets (3-0, 0.96 ERA) left the Brewers’ 5-2 win at Cincinnati on April 18 with the arm issue after allowing two hits and no runs over five innings. After some rest and a solid bullpen session Saturday, he is slated to return and try for a fourth straight victory overall and third straight at Chicago.
“It felt good,’ Sheets told the team’s Web site after the bullpen session. “But Tuesday has the biggest impact.”
The right-hander, 9-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 23 starts versus the Cubs, allowed two hits in 6 1-3 innings of Milwaukee’s 4-3, 10-inning win over Chicago on March 31.
Sheets should benefit from having one of the game’s top defensive center fielders in Cameron behind him.
Cameron, who hit .251 with 21 homers and 78 RBIs while making just five errors with San Diego in 2007, signed a one-year deal with Milwaukee and will likely hit second in the order.
“He’s a solid defender, he’s a great clubhouse guy, great hitter,” said Brewers’ manager Ned Yost of Cameron, who had four home runs in 26 at-bats against the Cubs last season. “He makes a good team better.”
Milwaukee will be looking to bounce back after falling 3-2 in 10 innings at home to Florida on Sunday. Bill Hall hit his team-leading seventh home run for the Brewers, who had just five hits in the contest and have scored seven runs in their last four games.
Hall is hitting .223, but is 6-for-9 with a homer and two doubles in his last four contests.
Like Milwaukee, Chicago has struggled to score at times during its recent rough stretch. The Cubs’ 145 runs are second-most in the majors, but they were held to four hits in a 2-0 loss at Washington on Sunday, one day after a 7-0 win over the Nationals.
The Cubs have scored just five runs in their last three defeats, stranding 21 runners in those games.
“We didn’t score many runs,” Piniella said. “When you don’t score many runs, it really increases the other team’s chances of winning.”
Chicago right fielder Kosuke Fukudome went 4-for-8 with two doubles and his only home run against the Brewers in his first major league series. Fukudome, batting . 326, went 2-for-2 versus Sheets.
Jason Marquis (1-0, 3.47) looks for another strong outing when he takes the ball Tuesday. The right-hander gave up two runs in seven innings and didn’t get the decision in the Cubs’ 4-2 loss at Colorado on Thursday. Marquis is 4-6 with a 4.01 ERA in 13 starts versus Milwaukee.