Now that Milwaukee's lengthy winning streak in Houston has ended, the Brewers hope Shaun Marcum can help them get back on track.
Marcum seeks to ensure the Brewers avoid a two-game sweep Thursday night by continuing both his recent success overall and against the Astros.
Milwaukee starting pitchers had posted a 1.37 ERA over the previous seven games before Wednesday, when Randy Wolf was tagged for seven runs in four innings of an 8-3 loss that snapped the Brewers' six-game winning streak in Houston.
The Astros (16-21) scored more than half the 13 runs they'd totaled during their home skid to Milwaukee. Onetime Brewers slugger Carlos Lee homered for the first time since April 22 and drove in three runs to help his current team snap a four-game overall losing streak.
"I've said before (the Astros) are a scrappy team," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Offensively, these guys can swing the bat. They are always on base. They are hard to get out.''
Milwaukee (16-21), which has dropped three of four, hopes Marcum can deliver a fourth straight strong outing Thursday.
Marcum (2-1, 3.07 ERA) is 2-0 with a 2.52 ERA in four starts against the Astros, but he allowed four runs and walked four in a season-low five innings of a 7-5 loss to Houston on April 25. The right-hander has posted a 1.80 ERA in three starts since then, though and Saturday earned his first win since April 9, giving up a run and three hits in seven innings of an 8-2 victory over Chicago.
"He's got four pitches, and he's got command of all of them. He can expose things," Cubs manager Dale Sveum told the Brewers' official website. "He can maneuver the ball around, in and out, and he cuts it and changes and throws a slow curveball, and he's very deceiving in his motion, and how quick he is to the plate makes him deceiving as well."
Lee, 2 for 7 with a home run versus Marcum, is 11 for 21 in his last five games. He's batting .429 with three homers and 10 RBIs during a nine-game hitting streak against Milwaukee.
"I'm feeling real good right now,'' said Lee, who played for the Brewers in 2005 and 2006. "I've kind of found something that's keeping me in a good position to hit.''
Scheduled Houston starter J.A. Happ (2-3, 5.72) looks to avoid losing a third straight start after giving up 11 runs and four homers in 10 innings over his last two outings. The left-hander allowed five runs in five innings of a 5-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday.
"It's another start where everything seems like it's going along OK and then all of a sudden things start going against it,'' Happ said. "That's where my frustration comes from."
Happ, who yielded four runs and two homers in five innings against Marcum and the Brewers on April 25, is 2-2 with a 5.70 ERA in six career starts versus Milwaukee.
Corey Hart, who homered for one of Milwaukee's five hits Wednesday, is 7 for 15 with three doubles and a home run off Happ. The All-Star right fielder is batting .404 with five homers and nine RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak against the Astros.
- Shaun Marcum