While less heralded, Manny Parra has been just as good of late for the torrid Brewers, who try to run their winning streak to nine games as they open a three-game series with the Houston Astros at Miller Park on Friday.
Parra (9-2, 3.68 ERA) has won eight consecutive decisions since losing to the Astros (46-55) at Minute Maid Park on May 3. The left-hander avenged that defeat by winning two starts against them in a 12-day span, and is coming off a strong outing at San Francisco, where he struck out a season-high nine and allowed two runs in 7 2-3 innings of a 7-4 victory on Sunday.
“With what CC does and Ben, it just kind of ups the ante and makes you kind of want to taste the same thing that they are,” said Parra. “That’s a goal now, just to keep going deeper and deeper into games.”
Parra will try to keep Milwaukee (59-43) rolling after it wrapped up a perfect seven-game road trip with a four-game sweep—aided by a three-hit shutout by Sabathia on Wednesday and seven strong innings from Sheets on Thursday—of its division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. Ryan Braun hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the ninth inning as the Brewers won 4-3 on Thursday to remain one game behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.
“Right now, our confidence level is at an all-time high,” said Braun, whose homer gave the Brewers a franchise-record 20th straight game with one. “This is the way you want to start the second half of the season.”
The All-Star left fielder, who is 2-for-6 with a homer against Astros scheduled starter Wandy Rodriguez, has hit safely in eight consecutive at-bats and is 15-for-32 (.469) with three homers and eight RBIs since the All-Star break.
Milwaukee, which is 16 games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 1992 season 92-70, has not won nine in a row since a 10-game run from Aug. 19-28, 2003.
While the Brewers are surging, the Astros are sinking deeper into the NL Central cellar. Houston won the first two games of its six-game homestand against the Cubs, then dropped the last four and were swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game series, capped with Wednesday’s 8-7 loss.
“I’m very disappointed,” said catcher Brad Ausmus. “We go against the Cubs and win two of three and then get swept by the Pirates. I feel like we made two steps forward and six steps back. No one in this locker room is happy with what we’re going right now.”
Rodriguez (5-3, 3.31), who picked up Houston’s last win, will try to stop this losing streak. The left-hander had a stellar outing Saturday against the Cubs, limiting them to one run in 6 2-3 innings while striking out seven in a 4-1 victory.
He has not faced the Brewers this season, but is 2-4 with a 5.02 ERA against them in nine starts and 10 lifetime appearances. Rodriguez has dropped his last four starts at Miller Park, compiling an 8.69 ERA while getting drilled for 19 runs and 24 hits in 19 2-3 innings while walking 13.