Chilly Brewers try to cool off surging Braves

Two teams headed full speed in opposite directions open a three-game series Monday night when the red-hot Atlanta Braves visit the Milwaukee Brewers.

The series is a rematch of a three-game set in Atlanta in May in which the host Braves won twice.

When that series started, the Brewers were 27-19. They have since gone just 21-27 and would be out of the playoffs if they started today.

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The Braves, meanwhile, began that series at 23-21. They are now 57-37 after winning 34 of their past 50 games.

Two struggling young pitchers will attempt to get their teams off on a winning note in the series opener when Braves left-hander Max Fried (9-4, 4.29 ERA) duels Brewers righty Adrian Houser (2-3, 4.01).

Fried threw six innings of two-hit, shutout ball in a 12-8 win over the Brewers in the earlier series.

He improved to 7-2 with a 2.88 ERA one start later but has since gone 2-2 with a 6.17 ERA in his past eight starts. He was roughed up for 19 hits and eight runs in just 10 innings in his past two outings.

Fried will take the ball Monday night with an added incentive. His close friend, Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, will be buried on Monday in Southern California, where the two left-handers grew up and became workout partners.

Fried was able to pay his respects to Skaggs' family when he returned home during the All-Star break.

"He was the guy I looked up to, as far as being an 18-year-old coming into pro ball and not knowing what to expect," Fried told reporters Sunday shortly before the Braves completed a three-game sweep at San Diego. "I'm very confident saying I wouldn't be the player or person I am today without what Tyler taught me."

The 25-year-old has made two career starts against the Brewers, going 1-1 with a 4.00 ERA.

Fried will have one fewer potent bat to fear Monday with the Brewers giving Ryan Braun the night off to attend the funeral in California.

Hitting wasn't the main problem when the Brewers lost two of three to the San Francisco Giants in a series that ended with an 8-3 loss on Sunday. The Giants put up 22 runs in the series and were especially rough on Milwaukee relievers, bombing them for 19 hits and 17 runs in 12 innings.

That's not good news for the Brewers, who will turn to Houser, their version of an opener.

The 26-year-old has lasted just 11 innings in his past three starts, going 0-2 while serving up 17 hits and 11 runs.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell assured no changes are in store personnel-wise in his bullpen.

"We ask a lot of these guys and they've delivered for the most part," he told reporters. "We've run into a little stretch post-break and I'd say a little bit before the break, but these are our guys. They're going to get outs for us. I'm confident in that. We're just going through a little rough patch right now."

Houser has never started a game against the Braves. He faced them once in relief last August, allowing three hits in 2 2/3 scoreless innings.

--Field Level Media

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