Braves-Brewers Preview

The Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves may be atop the NL wild-card standings, but the Milwaukee Brewers are making a very unlikely run at the second spot.

Giving the ball to Yovani Gallardo should help their chances.

The Brewers will try to win a ninth consecutive game with Gallardo on the mound and complete a three-game sweep of the Braves on Wednesday night.

Milwaukee (71-71) has won 17 of 22 to revive its season and become a factor for the second wild-card position, competing with St. Louis, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Atlanta (81-62) leads the wild-card race by 6 1/2 games over the third-place Dodgers.

Milwaukee's rise continued with Tuesday's 5-0 win over the Braves, extending its home winning streak to a season high-tying eight in a row.

The Brewers won nine straight at Miller Park from May 13-25, 2011, and matching that run would mean sweeping a three-game series from the Braves for the first time since April 24-26, 2006.

"We're playing great baseball and we know we have the team to go all the way," said Marco Estrada, Tuesday's winning pitcher. "A lot of people doubted us when we were down, but we didn't lose any confidence. We knew how well we could play."

The Brewers seem to be playing especially well when Gallardo (14-8, 3.76 ERA) takes the mound. They've won each of his last eight starts - averaging 7.43 runs - while he's 6-0 with a 3.04 ERA.

The right-hander led them to a win on the road Friday, yielding two runs with six strikeouts in six innings of a 5-4 victory over the Cardinals.

Gallardo is 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA in six starts against Atlanta, going 2-0 with a 0.81 ERA in three at home.

He could be in for another strong performance versus the Braves, who have managed one run and 15 hits - all singles - in this series. They've been held to three runs or fewer in seven of their past eight contests.

"We're not feeling too good right now with the way we're swinging the bats," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "We swung the bats hard, but couldn't get it off the wall or in front of the wall to get some runs."

Atlanta didn't need much offense during Paul Maholm's latest outing, as he allowed five hits with six strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings of a 3-0 win at New York on Friday.

Maholm (12-9, 3.67), though, is 1-10 with a 5.37 ERA in his last 18 starts against the Brewers, including five straight losing decisions over his past seven matchups.

He made two starts against Milwaukee while with the Chicago Cubs this season and went 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA.

The left-hander will be facing an offense that is averaging 6.0 runs and batting .287 with 35 homers over the last 22 games.

Aramis Ramirez, who had a solo homer Tuesday, has been key in that stretch, hitting .342 with six home runs and 19 RBIs. However, he's been even better over the last 23 home games, compiling a .378 average with eight homers and 22 RBIs.

The third baseman, though, has managed just two hits in his last 21 at-bats against Maholm.