Although Milwaukee is contending for the NL Central title and the Chicago Cubs are one of baseball’s worst teams, the Brewers won’t take their division rivals lightly.
In Tuesday night’s series opener at Miller Park, Milwaukee hopes to earn a rare win against Dempster, who has routinely silenced the Brewers’ offense.
Milwaukee (54-49) is opening a stretch of 18 straight games against division rivals that could create some separation atop the cluttered Central. After this series, the Brewers begin a three-game set against major league-worst Houston, the only team in the NL with a worse record than the Cubs (42-60).
Despite the favorable schedule, Milwaukee isn’t about to overlook the league’s bottom feeders.
The Brewers dropped three of four at Wrigley Field in mid-June, and have also lost seven of their last 11 series against the Cubs at Miller Park.
Milwaukee enters this series having dropped three of its last four games, including a 2-1 loss to NL West-leading San Francisco on Sunday. The Brewers have totaled three runs and gone 3 for 17 (.176) with runners in scoring position in their last three defeats.
Although Milwaukee is scuffling overall, Ryan Braun(notes) is locked in at the plate. The four-time All-Star is batting .421 with four homers in his last five games, and is hitting .360 with two homers, three doubles and six RBIs in his last six games against the Cubs.
Fellow All-Star slugger Prince Fielder(notes) could also be coming out of his slump, with two hits Sunday after going 2 for 27 in his previous seven games. He is batting .381 with two home runs and eight RBIs in seven games against Chicago this year.
Neither Braun nor Fielder has had much success against Dempster (7-7, 5.00 ERA), combining to hit .215 (17 for 79) with four homers and 18 strikeouts.
Braun and Fielder aren’t the only Brewers to struggle versus Dempster, who is 3-0 with a 0.82 ERA in his last five outings against Milwaukee. Since joining the Cubs’ starting rotation in 2008, Dempster is 11-1 with a 2.52 ERA in 15 outings in this series.
Now, Dempster will try to bounce back after being roughed up for six runs and seven hits in three innings of Wednesday’s 9-1 loss to Philadelphia. The right-hander had been 3-1 with a 1.99 ERA in his previous seven outings.
The Cubs make the short trip to Milwaukee riding their first three-game winning streak of the season - thanks to a weekend sweep of the hapless Astros.
“Obviously it’s frustrating the year hasn’t gone the way we want,” Baker said. “To finally to get three together, it’s in our division, hopefully we get rolling. Why not four?”
Byrd, who had four hits Sunday, is batting .388 with three homers, eight doubles and eight RBIs in 17 games against the Brewers since the start of last season. He is 4 for 9 with four doubles against scheduled Milwaukee starter Chris Narveson(notes) (6-6, 4.45), who has posted a 2.50 ERA while winning his last three starts against the Cubs.
Since being tagged for seven runs in 4 2-3 innings against Minnesota on July 2, Narveson is 1-1 with a 2.37 ERA in his three starts. The left-hander allowed four hits and walked none in seven shutout innings of Milwaukee’s 5-2, 10-inning victory over Arizona on Wednesday.