Brewers-Marlins Preview

The Associated Press

The Milwaukee Brewers are red-hot and they're not planning to go away.

Rickie Weeks is a major reason for that surprising surge.

Weeks will try to continue helping the Brewers creep back into the NL wild-card race by beating the last-place Miami Marlins for the third straight time Thursday in the finale of this four-game set.

Milwaukee (67-69) is on a stunning 13-3 run after sitting 12 games below .500 on Aug. 20, when it was seemingly all but eliminated from postseason contention.

Now, the Brewers are 6 1/2 games back of St. Louis for the league's second wild-card spot, and they'll visit the Cardinals for a three-game set this weekend.

"The biggest thing is we keep seeing the standings and trying to creep up on everybody, but at the same time we have some pretty good professionals in here who want to come in and try to keep winning ball games," Weeks said. "We kind of know what is at stake right now. We feel pretty good about ourselves."

Milwaukee has averaged 6.6 runs while hitting .296 with 29 homers over the past 16 games, getting at least 10 hits while totaling six homers in the first three games of this series.

"Hopefully, we continue this for a little bit, but if we do it could be fun," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We're playing really good ball."

Weeks has been a big part of the Brewers' barrage, hitting .484 with three homers, six RBIs and 13 runs during a seven-game hitting streak.

An All-Star last year who was hitting under .200 as recently as July 24, the second baseman came up big again Wednesday, connecting for a pair of homers and driving in four runs to power an 8-5 victory at Miami (60-77).

"I'm feeling good right now," said Weeks, who has a .375 average with 10 RBIs and 15 runs in his last 12 games versus the Marlins, with the Brewers winning nine of them.

Reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun is also hitting the ball hard, as half of his 18 hits in his last 44 at-bats have gone for extra bases while totaling 13 RBIs. He owns a .362 average during a 14-game hitting streak at Miami.

Marco Estrada (2-5, 3.85 ERA) will get the nod in an effort to keep Milwaukee rolling, and his last four starts have ended in Brewers victories.

The right-hander has been impressive over his last three, going 2-0 while allowing one earned run with 27 strikeouts in 18 innings. He didn't get a decision despite throwing another gem Saturday, yielding one run and fanning 10 in seven innings of a 3-2 victory over Pittsburgh.

Estrada is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in six games - two starts - against the Marlins. He allowed two runs and four hits with six strikeouts in six innings against Miami on July 3.

Unlike the Brewers, the Marlins are limping along during a 3-10 stretch thanks to a .229 average and 5.24 bullpen ERA.

Josh Johnson (7-11, 3.86) knows first-hand how Miami's relievers can waste a strong effort after Saturday's 5-3 loss to New York. The right-hander allowed one run and three hits in eight innings, exiting with a two-run lead, only to watch Steve Cishek blow the save in a four-run ninth.

Johnson is 0-4 with a 3.94 ERA in his last five starts.

He's 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA in six career outings against Milwaukee, winning all three at home behind a 2.01 ERA.

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