The Chicago Cubs witnessed firsthand last week how well Yovani Gallardo has been pitching lately, then got a reminder of how the Milwaukee Brewers have dominated them for most of the season in Monday's series opener.
Gallardo looks to win his sixth straight start while leading Milwaukee to its seventh consecutive victory over Chicago when the teams meet Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
The Brewers have won 11 of 14 matchups with the Cubs in 2012 following a 15-4 rout in the opener, as they scored nine ninth-inning runs with the help of back-to-back-to-back homers from Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart.
Ramirez, who is 8 for 16 with eight RBIs over his last four games, also homered in the fifth against his former team and Braun finished 4 for 6 with five RBIs for Milwaukee (60-67), which has won six of its last seven overall.
"(Ramirez is) hitting the ball every night,'' manager Ron Roenicke said. "He's hitting the ball. It's fun to watch.''
The Brewers will look to stay hot with help from Gallardo (13-8, 3.62 ERA), who has a 2.02 ERA during his winning streak, pitching at least seven innings in each. The Cubs were the latest victims, as Gallardo allowed solo homers to David DeJesus and Bryan LaHair but just two other hits over seven innings in a 3-2 win Wednesday at Miller Park.
The right-hander managed to stay focused for that outing despite attending to his ill mother earlier that week.
"It's not easy for anybody,'' Gallardo said. "You've just got to be tough. You've got to be tough and find a way to get the job done.''
Gallardo has been tough on the Cubs in his last three starts at Wrigley Field as well, going 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA while striking out 28 in 20 innings. He's allowed one run in each of those outings, including April 11 when he pitched seven innings of a 2-1 victory.
Travis Wood lost to Gallardo last week when he allowed three runs in seven innings, and he'll seek to win his first start since July 6 in the rematch Tuesday.
Wood (4-10, 4.76) has a 7.09 ERA while going 0-7 over his last eight starts, but he earned praise from the Brewers after his latest outing.
"He's a good pitcher," said Braun, who took Wood deep - the 14th homer the lefty has allowed during his skid. "He's got good command to both sides of the plate and he threw a good cutter that's tough to differentiate."
Wood is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in five career starts versus Milwaukee, and he'll look to help Chicago bounce back after the team's 20th loss in 26 games.
The Cubs (49-78) nearly matched the 10 runs they'd given up over their last four games in the ninth inning alone Monday. Manager Dale Sveum sent utility man Joe Mather in to record the final out after Alex Hinshaw and Lendy Castillo couldn't end the inning.
Mather became the first position player to pitch for the Cubs since Gary Gaetti on July 3, 1999.
"We need those guys to pitch when we're losing,'' Sveum said of his young relievers. "Can't just keep throwing (Shawn) Camp and (Manny) Corpas and (James) Russell and those guys into games. Those guys have to somehow get through those innings.''
The Cubs' 6.09 bullpen ERA in August is easily the NL's worst.