Brewers-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

While Milwaukee and the Chicago Cubs have developed a heated rivalry over the past few seasons, there is one Brewer that figures to receive a warm reception at Wrigley Field.

The reigning NL MVP, however, probably won't receive such treatment.

After playing nearly a decade on Chicago's North Side, Aramis Ramirez makes his return to Wrigley on Monday night in the opener of a four-game series between the Brewers and Cubs.

Ramirez signed as a free agent with the defending NL Central champion Brewers (1-2) in December after helping lead Chicago (1-2) to three division titles.

The third baseman was acquired by the Cubs from Pittsburgh in 2003 and spent the next 8 1/2 seasons calling Wrigley home. He was selected to three All-Star teams and ranks sixth in franchise history in homers (239) and 12th in RBIs (806) while hitting .294 in 1,124 games.

Ramirez said he isn't sure how he'll be welcomed in his return to the Friendly Confines, but there is little doubt how the Cub faithful will greet Ryan Braun in Milwaukee's first road game.

"I think it's going to be ugly for Braun everywhere we go," Ramirez told the Brewers' official website.

Braun has regularly been a target of boos at Wrigley as a result of giving the Cubs fits over the years - the four-time All-Star is batting .331 with 12 home runs, 23 doubles and 57 RBIs in 73 games in the series. Winning his appeal of a 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance during his 2011 MVP season figures to lead to even greater animosity.

"I don't think I've ever been there and had them applaud me so I don't expect anything different,'' Braun said.

The Brewers make the short trip to Chicago after Sunday's 9-3 loss to St. Louis. They dropped two of three to the Cardinals at Miller Park after going a major league-best 57-24 at home last season.

Milwaukee went 10-6 against the Cubs last year - their first winning record in the series since 2005 - but lost five of seven at Wrigley.

Although the Brewers struggled on the road, scheduled starter Shaun Marcum had no trouble pitching away from Milwaukee. Marcum, 13-7 with a 3.54 ERA in 33 starts last season, was 8-3 with a major league-best 2.21 road ERA.

It didn't seem to matter where he faced the Cubs, though. The right-hander gave up two runs in six innings in a home win July 28 and yielded a run and five hits in eight innings in a 5-1 victory at Wrigley on Sept. 20.

Several Cubs have had trouble facing Marcum. Marlon Byrd is 1 for 10 lifetime against him, while David DeJesus is hitless in 16 career at-bats.

Starlin Castro's only hit in seven career at-bats against Marcum is a solo homer. The All-Star shortstop, who is 20 for 40 lifetime against the Brewers in Chicago, owns a 14-game hitting streak and has reached base in 43 consecutive games.

The Cubs defeated Washington 4-3 on Sunday to get Dale Sveum, a Brewers coach from 2006-2011, his first win with Chicago.

Sveum has received excellent starting pitching with Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija combining for a 1.61 ERA, and now it's up to Chris Volstad to try to continue that trend.

Volstad, acquired in January from Miami as part of the Carlos Zambrano trade, went 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA in 29 starts last season.

Despite his troubles, the right-hander pitched well against Milwaukee, and his 1.71 career ERA versus the Brewers is his lowest against any team he's faced more than once.

Braun has two singles in 12 career at-bats against Volstad, while Ramirez is 6 for 12 with a homer and two doubles.

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