Although the Milwaukee Brewers have already clinched the NL Central, they still have a lot riding on their final few games with a chance to host a division series.
Closing the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park should significantly help those chances.
The Brewers look to continue their home dominance over the Pirates and match a franchise record for victories in Monday night’s series opener.
Milwaukee (94-65) leads NL West champion Arizona by one game for the second-best record in the league. There are a couple different playoff scenarios for the Brewers - including starting a series on the road against NL East champion Philadelphia - but finishing with a better record than the Diamondbacks would guarantee they open the playoffs at Miller Park.
Milwaukee set a team record with its 55th home victory, beating Florida 9-5 on Sunday. The Brewers are one victory away from matching the franchise record of 95, set in 1979 and matched three years later.
Milwaukee would seem to have a good chance of notching one more win considering its 10-2 against Pittsburgh this season. The Brewers have also outscored the Pirates 32-13 in winning all six meetings in Milwaukee, and are 36-3 against them at Miller Park since 2007.
Braun is batting .349 with four homers and 15 RBIs against the Pirates this year, and has a 15-game hitting streak against Pittsburgh in Milwaukee, batting .433 with six home runs and 18 RBIs. The four-time All-Star is 6 for 11 with a homer and double lifetime against scheduled starter Charlie Morton(notes) (10-10, 3.67 ERA).
The Brewers counter with Shaun Marcum(notes) (13-7, 3.31), who allowed a run and five hits in eight innings of Tuesday’s 5-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs. That win matched his career high, set last year with Toronto.
The right-hander has 2.48 ERA in his last eight outings, which includes two starts against the Pirates. He is 1-1 with a 1.31 ERA in three games against them this year.
Although the Brewers are a major league-best 39-17 at home since May 13, they’re 3-9 in Marcum’s starts.
The Pirates (71-88), however, have been just as bad on the road lately, dropping 15 of 20 away from PNC Park. They arrive in Milwaukee after losing to Cincinnati 5-4 on Sunday.
Although Pittsburgh is headed for a 19th consecutive losing season, it has a chance to finish in fourth place for the first time since 2003. The Pirates, who finished last in the Central each of the last four seasons, own a one-game advantage over fifth-place Chicago.
Morton earned his first victory since Aug. 8 on Tuesday, giving up three hits in six scoreless innings of a 5-3 win over Arizona. He had posted a 6.43 ERA in losing his previous four starts.
“He continues to work well, throw strikes, sink the ball,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He spun the ball well tonight. It was a very solid outing for him and we found a way to score a couple more than them.”
Morton pitched well in his lone start of the season against the Brewers on Aug. 14, yielding a run and four hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 2-1, 10-inning loss. The right-hander had recorded a 6.20 ERA in losing his four previous career starts versus Milwaukee.