Ryan Braun and Corey Hart are off to solid starts. That could continue given who the Chicago Cubs will start against them next.
The Milwaukee Brewers' sluggers have a good history against Paul Maholm, who makes his Cubs debut Tuesday night as these NL Central rivals continue a four-game set at Wrigley Field.
Braun went 2 for 4 in Monday's 7-5 series-opening win, his first road game since his 50-game suspension for testing positive for an elevated level of testosterone was overturned. The fans at the Friendly Confines greeted him with boos and signs that said "Cheater." The reigning NL MVP is hitting .375 with one homer and three runs scored on the young season.
"Braun has been one of the best players in the big leagues for the last four years, so he's always catching some sort of razzing from fans,'' Brewers closer John Axford said. "This year it's just going to be a little different.''
Hart has started even better than Braun, going 5 for 12 with three homers and four RBIs. He singled and scored the run that put Milwaukee ahead for good Monday on Mat Gamel's triple.
Both right-handed hitters have fared well against the southpaw Maholm, with Braun batting .333 and Hart hitting .318 with three homers among eight extra-base hits. All of those at-bats came when Maholm was with Pittsburgh.
The Pirates declined an option on Maholm, who went 6-14 with a 3.66 ERA in 2011, but 0-5 with a 5.75 ERA over his final seven outings. He signed a one-year, $4.25 million contract with Chicago (1-3) in January.
Maholm is 1-8 with a 4.89 ERA in his last 16 starts against the Brewers. He pitched well overall in spring training, though, going 1-1 with a 1.84 ERA in four outings.
Milwaukee (2-2) also figures to have an edge Tuesday with Chris Narveson making his season debut after he went 11-8 with a 4.45 ERA in 2011, with the Brewers winning 13 of his final 17 starts.
Narveson is 5-1 with a 2.76 ERA in six career starts against the Cubs. Alfonso Soriano is 1 for 13 with four strikeouts against the left-hander.
Chicago went 5-2 at home against Milwaukee last season, but the Brewers struck first in this series. Monday's game marked the return to Wrigley of Aramis Ramirez, who got a mixed reaction from fans in a successful homecoming, driving in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly and adding an RBI double in the seventh that made it 6-3 for the Brewers.
"It was good for Rami, I know he's fired up,'' Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "The adrenaline is a little bit different when you come back home."
The game also marked a reunion for first-year Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who spent the previous six seasons on the Brewers staff.
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro's streak of reaching safely in 43 straight games ended as he went 0 for 5 with two strikeouts. Castro is a career .330 hitter against Milwaukee.
Darwin Barney and Bryan LaHair homered Monday for the Cubs, who have led in every game this season.