The Milwaukee Brewers have overcome a slow start to take over first place in the competitive NL Central. To win their first division title since 1982, however, they’ll have to make do without their catalyst.
After learning they’d be without leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks(notes) for the rest of the season, the Brewers go for their season-high seventh straight win—and 13th in 15 games—Tuesday night when they open a three-game road series against the Houston Astros.
Milwaukee (24-14) is a major league-best 20-5 since losing nine of its first 13. Weeks was a key to the surge, batting .272 with nine home runs, 24 RBIs and 28 runs scored overall in 2009.
But the second baseman hurt his left wrist striking out Sunday in St. Louis. He underwent an MRI exam Monday in Arizona that revealed a tear and will likely have surgery Wednesday. Recovery time is estimated at four to six months.
“We’re going to miss the guy,” manager Ken Macha said before Monday night’s series finale against the Cardinals. “He was having a tremendous year, a great start. But nobody’s going to feel sorry for you.”
Despite Weeks’ absence Monday, the Brewers completed a three-game sweep of the Cardinals with an 8-4 victory. Ryan Braun scored four runs and Jason Kendall(notes) recorded his 2,000th hit to spark Milwaukee’s offense. Craig Counsell(notes) replaced Weeks in the leadoff spot and at second base and went 1 for 6 with a strikeout.
“I love Rickie, and I told everybody that,” Macha said after the game. “He’s a tremendous guy but we need to go out and play, too.”
The Brewers won two of three in their first series against the Astros from April 24-26, also in Houston.
The Astros (17-19) were struggling at that point, but they’ve won six of eight after dropping five of their previous seven. Ivan Rodriguez(notes) hit his 300th home run and Lance Berkman(notes) had two hits and an RBI in a 6-5 road victory over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.
Berkman is 8 for 15 with a home run, five RBIs and five runs scored over his last four games after batting .187 in his first 30.
“I feel like I’m starting to see the ball better,” he told the Astros’ official Web site. “This series, I didn’t feel quite as late on the fastball. I felt like I was starting to catch up.”
After allowing opponents to hit .302 against him as Milwaukee lost the first three games he appeared in this year, the right-hander has held opponents to a .195 average over his last five starts—all Brewers victories.
Bush gave up three runs in seven innings of a 5-3 win over Florida on Thursday, the third straight start in which he’s lasted seven innings.
Bush is 5-1 with a 3.50 ERA in 12 career games—10 starts—against the Astros. But he’s 0-1 with a 4.31 ERA in six games at Minute Maid Park, and the Brewers have lost five of those contests.
Houston will hand the ball to Mike Hampton(notes) (2-3, 5.31). The left-hander matched a season high by giving up five earned runs Wednesday, but he still got his second win of the year, 15-11 at Colorado.
Hampton is 4-2 with a 3.10 ERA in 12 career games against Milwaukee, including a 9-8, 11-inning Houston loss April 25 in which he gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings.