There are still two months left in the season, but the Milwaukee Brewers aren't giving any indication that they're going to make a move up the standings.
The Houston Astros' recent bevy of moves show they're certainly looking toward 2013.
Milwaukee will try to avoid a 10th loss in 11 games Monday night at Miller Park while the major league-worst Astros look to win two straight for the first time in more than a month.
The Brewers (45-56) were eight games out in the NL Central and six back of the second wild card at the All-Star break, but those deficits have since doubled. Another bullpen meltdown in Sunday's 11-10, 11-inning loss to Washington left the club a season-worst 11 games below .500.
"We battled to the end, we just didn't pitch well out of the bullpen again," manager Ron Roenicke said after his relievers yielded nine runs - eight in the last four innings - and blew a major league-leading 20th save.
While the slumping Brewers could be in sell mode with Tuesday's non-waiver trade deadline approaching, the Astros (35-68) have been dealing for the past few weeks. After completing their fifth trade of the month earlier Sunday, sending third baseman Chris Johnson to Arizona for two prospects, the Astros defeated Pittsburgh 9-5 to end a team-record 12-game skid
"To go through a homestand like this (1-6), that's a big breath of fresh air to be able to (win) and to take it out on the road with us," manager Brad Mills told the Astros' official website.
Houston, though, hasn't won two straight since June 26-27, and the club is a major league-worst 10-41 on the road.
The Astros return to Milwaukee for the first time since ending a six-game road losing streak to the Brewers - and an 11-game overall skid in this matchup - with a 7-5 victory April 25.
Picking up another win at Miller Park could be a challenge as Houston opens a six-game trip with Bud Norris (5-8, 5.05 ERA) going for his first win since May 21.
The right-hander is 0-7 with a 7.43 ERA in nine starts since that victory, but he pitched seven innings of one-run ball in Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Reds.
Norris, though, has a 9.53 ERA while losing his last six road starts. He's faced the Brewers twice this season, including a 5 2-3-inning outing April 24 when he was tagged for seven runs and nine hits in a 9-6 road loss.
Milwaukee will counter with Marco Estrada (0-4, 4.52), who hasn't won since Aug. 23.
This will be the right-hander's first start against Houston following six relief appearances. Estrada pitched three hitless frames in a 5-3, 10-inning road win over the Astros on July 8.
Third baseman Aramis Ramirez could return to the Brewers' lineup Monday after a sore left wrist limited him to pinch-hitting duties Sunday. Ramirez, who is batting .419 (18 for 43) with two homers and eight RBIs since July 17, is 5 for 14 with two homers and two doubles off Norris.
Ryan Braun and Corey Hart have also taken Norris deep twice, with Hart's two homers coming in 2012.
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Houston Astros