With comfortable leads atop their respective divisions, the Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies could potentially square off in next month’s NLCS. If the Brewers are to have any realistic chance of having home-field advantage, they need to make a significant push in the next few days.
Milwaukee, owner of baseball’s top home record, tries to close the gap atop the league Thursday night when it opens a four-game series against the Phillies at Miller Park.
With an 8 1/2-game lead over St. Louis in the Central, the Brewers (85-59) are closing in on their first division title since 1982, when they won the AL East. They squandered a chance to bury the Cardinals, however, losing two of three in St. Louis this week.
Philadelphia (91-48) didn’t waste its opportunity to inch closer to a division title this week.
The Phillies completed a three-game sweep of Atlanta with a 3-2 victory Wednesday to open a 10 1/2-game lead over the second-place Braves. They reduced their magic number to 12 for clinching a fifth straight division title, and are 43 games over .500 for the first time in franchise history.
Wednesday’s victory may have been costly, however, as five-time All-Star Chase Utley(notes) left the game for precautionary reasons for a possible concussion, after he was hit in the helmet by a pitch from Eric O’Flaherty(notes).
“We think it’s very, very, mild, but we’re going to be cautious with him, obviously,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told the Phillies’ official website. “You don’t want to mess with the head.”
Although the Phillies are 8 1/2 games ahead of the Brewers for the NL’s best record, a trip to Milwaukee could easily put a dent in that advantage.
Those two sluggers were instrumental in helping Milwaukee take two of three in Philadelphia in April. Fielder went 7 for 12 (.583) with two doubles and three RBIs, while Braun was 6 for 12 with a homer, three RBIs and five runs.
Philadelphia’s offense had little luck against Milwaukee’s pitching in that series, plating seven runs while batting .163.
Victorino is hitting .450 with a homer, two doubles and nine RBIs in the last four in Milwaukee, while Howard is batting .375 with two home runs and nine RBIs during a seven-game hitting streak there.
Hunter Pence(notes), who is batting .304 with six doubles and 10 RBIs in his last 13 games at Miller Park, returns to Milwaukee for the first time since playing for Houston on July 29, when he was removed in the fifth inning and traded to the Phillies.
Hamels gave up three runs and four hits - including two homers - in seven innings of Saturday’s 8-4 loss to Florida, but didn’t receive a decision.
The left-hander is 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA in his last four starts against the Brewers.
Milwaukee counters with Chris Narveson(notes) (10-6, 4.26), who allowed two runs and four hits in five innings in Saturday’s 8-2 win over Houston. The left-hander was making his first start since Aug. 22 after leaving that outing with an injury to the middle finger on his pitching hand.
In his lone start of the season against the Phillies on April 20, he allowed three runs and four hits in six innings of a 4-3 loss, but left without a decision.