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Brewers-Cubs Preview

AP - Sports

Chicago Cubs starter Justin Germano believes he pitched better than the box score would indicate after he gave up seven runs to the Milwaukee Brewers in his last outing.

He will get another chance to prove he can fare well against the Brewers when these NL Central rivals open a four-game set Monday night at Wrigley Field.

Milwaukee (59-67) swept three games at home from Chicago (49-77) last week to improve to 10-3 in the season series including five straight wins.

The Brewers opened last week's set Aug. 20 with a 9-5 victory. Germano (2-3, 5.40 ERA) lasted 4 2-3 innings for the Cubs and was charged with seven runs - six in an eight-run fifth by Milwaukee that chased the right-hander.

The journeyman had not given up that many runs since allowing a career-high 10 at Houston on April 21, 2008, but thought his performance against the Brewers wasn't that bad.

"People might think I'm crazy, but I feel like I pitched a lot better than the line shows,'' Germano said. "I got ground balls that last inning. They just hit them where our guys weren't. It's part of the game. A couple inches to the left, a couple inches to the right, I could get out of that inning with just a couple runs. I definitely battled that last inning just trying to get that third out."

Germano could be in better shape one week later since he has pitched better at home, going 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA in four appearances - three starts.

Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy homered off Germano last week, and he's 10 for 27 with three homers and 13 RBIs against the Cubs this year. He's not the only Brewers hitter who has enjoyed success against Chicago pitching in 2012.

Norichika Aoki is 13 for 33 (.394) with two homers and Corey Hart is 15 for 42 (.357) with seven doubles and a home run. Ryan Braun, who leads the majors with a .590 slugging percentage, is 13 for 43 (.302).

Chicago pitchers have been careful with Braun and Aramis Ramirez, walking each slugger nine times while the pair has combined for nine RBIs. This is Ramirez's second series at Wrigley since leaving the Cubs after last season, and he went 1 for 11 in the first one April 9-11.

Ramirez, however, enters this set with a .345 average in his last 14 road games. He went 6 for 12 with five RBIs as the Brewers took two of three at Pittsburgh over the weekend.

The Cubs may not be too thrilled to see Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada (1-5, 4.23), who struck out nine over six scoreless innings against them last Tuesday to earn a 5-2 victory - the right-hander's first since Aug. 23, 2011.

"Definitely, that's the best he's thrown all year," Lucroy said. "He controlled his fastball. He controlled his off-speed stuff."

Estrada had made 15 starts and 14 relief appearances since his last victory.

His woes probably pale in comparison to the slide by the Cubs' Chris Volstad, who earned his first victory in 25 starts with 6 2-3 effective innings in Sunday's rain-shortened 5-0 win over Colorado. Chicago took two of three in the weekend set.

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