D-backs visit Brewers as NL wild-card race heats up

Field Level Media

The Milwaukee Brewers are at the point where they need a strong 35-game finish to return the postseason.

The Brewers look to make up some ground in the playoff derby when they host the opener of a three-game series on Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Milwaukee resides in third place in the National League Central, four games behind the first-place Chicago Cubs. The Brewers trail the St. Louis Cardinals, the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets in the race for the second NL wild card.

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The Brewers are hoping Wednesday's rain-shortened 5-3 win at St. Louis was a starting point. Milwaukee had lost six of its previous eight contests prior to the crucial 7 1/2-inning win.

The Brewers set the tone with four first-inning runs against Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, three coming on Mike Moustakas' 31st homer of the season.

"I caught it out front pretty good," Moustakas told reporters. "He made a really good pitch. I got lucky that I was able to stay back just enough and get the barrel to the ball."

Moustakas' career high for homers is 38 with the Kansas City Royals in 2017. He is forming a formidable power duo with reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich, who has 41 home runs and 89 RBIs.

The series is highly important to Arizona, which sits 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the wild-card chase.

The Diamondbacks lost three of four to the Brewers last month in Phoenix, allowing 27 runs in the series.

Arizona also has experienced issues in Milwaukee, as it has lost five straight at Miller Park.

The Diamondbacks had a three-game winning streak halted Wednesday when they dropped a 7-2 decision to the Colorado Rockies in Phoenix.

An overwhelming bright spot for Arizona has been the play of 30-year-old infielder Eduardo Escobar, who has set career highs of 28 homers and 100 RBIs.

Escobar has played in 125 of 128 games, and manager Torey Lovullo keeps looking for ways to give the veteran a breather.

"He's played a lot of baseball," Lovullo told reporters. "I think it should be my responsibility to give him a little bit of rest. At times, I couldn't do it this year."

Escobar wants nothing to do with spending time in the dugout.

"When the season is done, that's my vacation," Escobar said. "Right now, I need to be working. Every time he gives me a day off, I go to him and say, 'Hey man, I want to play, I don't like having days off. I'll take days off in November and December.'"

Right-hander Jordan Lyles (7-8, 4.96 ERA) will make his fifth start for the Brewers since being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates shortly before the trade deadline.

Lyles is 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA for Milwaukee. He has allowed just 15 hits over 21 innings but has walked 11 against 18 strikeouts.

The 28-year-old Lyles ran into trouble last Saturday against the Washington Nationals when he served up two homers and allowed five runs and seven hits over four frames in a no-decision.

Lyles traditionally struggled against the Diamondbacks when he spent 4 1/2 seasons with fellow NL West members Colorado and San Diego. He is 2-7 with a 7.23 ERA in 20 appearances (10 starts) against Arizona.

The troubles continued when he faced the Diamondbacks for the Pirates on April 24. He allowed five runs (four earned) and eight hits over five innings of an 11-2 loss.

Jake Lamb (7-for-12, three doubles) and Nick Ahmed (4-for-8) have enjoyed success against Lyles.

Arizona will counter with right-hander Merrill Kelly (9-12, 4.63 ERA).

The 30-year-old rookie has won back-to-back decisions after losing his previous six over a nine-start span.

Kelly was sharp against San Francisco in his last turn on Sunday, as he allowed one run and six hits over 5 2/3 innings. It represented a nice turnaround after he gave up 23 earned runs and 32 hits in 19 1/3 innings over his previous four starts.

Kelly fared well against the Brewers on July 18 but settled for a no-decision. He allowed one run and three hits over seven innings in a game Milwaukee won 5-1.

--Field Level Media

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