The Milwaukee Brewers have built their lead in the NL wild card race by taking advantage of an easy stretch of their schedule.
They look to continue doing so Tuesday, opening their third consecutive series against a last-place team as they meet the San Diego Padres.
A 6-3 defeat to NL Central rival Cincinnati on Aug. 4 was Milwaukee’s seventh loss in nine games and dropped its wild card lead over St. Louis to a half-game. However, the Brewers (68-51) bounced back to win their next two games against the cellar-dwelling Reds, and went on to sweep a four-game set from Washington, owner of the NL’s worst record.
“It’s a no-win situation for us,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost told the team’s official Web site. “If we sweep them four straight, (people say) we’re supposed to if you look at their record. That’s not the case, they came in here hot. They came in here playing very well, and we played very well and beat them four straight.”
This six-game win streak has given the Brewers a 3 1/2-game lead over the Cardinals for the wild card. They’re also 3 1/2 games back of the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central lead.
“We’re playing better right now and we’re in kind of a nice groove,” said Milwaukee’s Dave Bush, the winning pitcher in Monday’s 7-1 victory over Washington.
Now the Brewers visit a San Diego team which not only is in last place in the NL West, but is 4-16 at home since June 20 and has lost seven consecutive series there.
Milwaukee, though, could be without top hitter Ryan Braun for a third straight game. The All-Star left fielder, among the league leaders with 30 homers and 84 RBIs, is day to day with a ribcage muscle injury.
The Brewers will start Jeff Suppan (7-7, 4.70 ERA), looking to win his third straight start. He threw seven scoreless innings to beat Atlanta on Aug. 1, and pitched seven innings of three-run ball in a 6-3 victory at Cincinnati on Wednesday.
Suppan is 1-2 with a 6.35 ERA in three career starts versus San Diego (46-72), and the Padres offense is coming off a big weekend.
San Diego totaled 24 runs and 33 hits in a pair of wins in Colorado, and posted its highest run total in more than a year in a 16-7 victory Sunday.
“I felt relaxed when I made the decision,” said Giles, who has spent the last five-plus seasons with the Padres. “It wasn’t a big issue for me.”
Giles has three homers and six RBIs in the last five games following a 32-game homerless drought. He’s homered three times in 28 at-bats against Suppan.
Poor pitching by Cha Seung Baek (4-5, 4.90), who starts Tuesday, is one reason for San Diego’s struggles at home. Since being acquired from Seattle in late May, Baek is 0-5 with a 6.96 ERA in seven appearances at Petco Park, including six starts.
It seems odd Baek has been so much better away from home than in pitcher-friendly Petco. Padres pitchers have a 3.56 ERA at home while opponents have hit .249 against them, compared to a 5.21 ERA and .283 opponent batting average on the road.
Baek is coming off another solid effort in a road win, holding the New York Mets to two runs and a walk in 6 1-3 innings in a 4-2 victory on Wednesday.
The right-hander has never faced Milwaukee.