It’s been a frustrating six weeks for the Milwaukee Brewers, who have gone from division leaders to afterthoughts in the NL Central race since the start of July. If they can keep hitting like they have lately, however, they could climb back into contention very quickly.
The Brewers hope to continue their success at the plate as they try to win three straight for the first time in nearly two months with a home game against the struggling Houston Astros on Saturday night.
After entering July with a two-game lead in the division, Milwaukee (57-58) dropped 23 of its next 36 to fall into fourth place Wednesday. Though they’re still seven games behind first-place St. Louis, the Brewers have to be encouraged by their performances in back-to-back wins.
Milwaukee beat San Diego 12-9 on Thursday, then routed Houston 11-2 in the series opener Friday night. The Brewers have put up double-figure run totals in consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 22-23, 2006, and they’re in position to win three straight for the first time since sweeping Cleveland from June 15-17.
Felipe Lopez(notes) beat out a play at first for an infield single in the Brewers’ first at-bat Friday and hit a three-run homer to cap the eight-run opening frame against Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez(notes).
“The hustle play by Felipe definitely set the tone, a lot of guys put together some good at-bats, took advantage of every mistake (Rodriguez) made and it was nice to get out to a big lead like that and have an easy one,” left fielder Ryan Braun said.
Braun homered in the first and second innings and drove in three runs. He’s batting .343 with nine homers, 26 RBIs and 19 runs scored in 23 games since July 20. He’s had success against the Astros all season, hitting .349 with two homers, nine RBIs and seven runs scored over 10 games.
Houston (56-60) has given up 8.6 runs per game and allowed opponents to hit .337 while dropping four of five games on its seven-game road trip.
If his recent performance is any indication, Brian Moehler(notes) (7-8, 5.40 ERA) could have a hard time getting the Astros back on track. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 6.85 ERA over his last four starts, all Houston losses. He gave up four runs in five innings to suffer an 8-6 defeat at Florida on Monday.
Moehler is 3-7 with a 5.34 ERA in 11 career starts against the Brewers. He was 1-2 with a 6.60 ERA against them last season.
Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder(notes) is 4 for 9 with two homers in his career against Moehler, and catcher Jason Kendall(notes) is 10 for 13 (.769) against him. Braun has three singles in nine at-bats against him.
The Brewers will hand the ball to Mike Burns(notes) (2-4, 5.89), who pitched a perfect inning of relief in his first career appearance against the Astros on Saturday. The right-hander made his last start Aug. 1, allowing three runs in 5 2-3 innings against San Diego and taking the 4-2 defeat.