Before beginning a series that could all but put the NL Central race to bed, the Milwaukee Brewers have a chance to create some momentum.
After getting swept by second-place St. Louis earlier in the week, the Brewers (83-57) have bounced back by taking advantage of the major league-worst Astros (47-92), winning each of this weekend’s first two games by identical 8-2 scores.
George Kottaras(notes) became the first MLB player to hit for the cycle this season in Saturday’s victory. Kottaras, Fielder and Craig Counsell(notes) each drove in a pair of runs as the Brewers cut their magic number to 15 to eliminate second-place St. Louis and clinch the Central. Milwaukee visits the Cardinals for three games starting Monday.
“I wasn’t trying for the cycle, just trying to play the right way and the way it’s meant to be played,” Kottaras said. “It made me feel good inside. It was a great feeling.”
Milwaukee has outscored Houston 53-19 during an eight-game winning streak in the series. Fielder has led the way by hitting .576 with four homers and 12 RBIs.
The right-hander has a 1.30 ERA over his last four starts but has dropped his past two while getting one run of support. He was charged with two unearned runs in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s 2-1 defeat to St. Louis.
Marcum went 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two April starts in April against Houston, earning the win at Minute Maid on the 29th as he allowed three hits over seven innings of a 5-0 victory.
The Astros’ wins leader, Rodriguez enters this matchup 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his last five outings but is seeking to win consecutive starts for the first time since June.
After giving up six runs to Colorado on Aug. 24, the left-hander struck out a career-high 13 over seven innings of a 7-4 win over Pittsburgh on Monday, allowing three runs and four hits.
“My breaking ball was the key,” Rodriguez told the team’s website. “When I have a good one like I had today, I use it a lot.
Rodriguez has a 2.11 ERA in his last three starts against the Brewers but has an 0-1 record to show for those efforts. He might be in the right place to end that drought as he’s 4-0 with a 0.91 ERA in seven home starts versus the Brewers.
Former Brewer Carlos Lee(notes), batting .444 during a 14-game hit streak, is 1 for 6 with two strikeouts lifetime versus Marcum, but the lone hit was a two-run home run in a 10-inning, 9-6 Astros victory at Miller Park on April 23.