Cardinals-Brewers Preview

The Associated Press

Although they've been one of the top hitting teams in the majors at home, the Milwaukee Brewers are being tested by the St. Louis Cardinals' red-hot starting pitchers.

It doesn't figure to get any easier against a 22-year-old rookie who dominated them earlier this season.

Shelby Miller will try to provide the NL Central -leading Cardinals with yet another outstanding start on Friday night when they go for two in a row in this four-game series at Miller Park.

Jake Westbrook continued the run of gems by St. Louis (17-11) starters on Thursday when he allowed one run over six innings before the bullpen held off a late Milwaukee rally in a 6-5 victory.

While the Brewers (14-13) rank among the league leaders with 26 homers and 88 runs at home, they're facing a rotation that has allowed three earned runs or less in 20 of 23 games and leads all of baseball with a 2.09 ERA.

Milwaukee has managed one run in 29 innings against St. Louis starters while dropping three of the four meetings. The Brewers now try to avoid a third straight home defeat as they face another tough test against Miller (3-2, 2.05 ERA).

The hard-throwing right-hander struck out eight while giving up one hit over seven innings in a 2-0 win over Milwaukee on April 12.

Miller, though, will try to rebound from his worst outing in five starts after yielding three runs and seven hits - including two homers - over 5 2-3 innings in a 9-0 loss to the Pirates on Sunday.

"I probably can't even count on my fingers how many balls I threw down in the zone,'' said Miller, who ranks among the NL leaders in ERA.

This time, Miller will have to slow down Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez, who went 2 for 4 in the opener to extend his hitting streak to nine games. He's 17 for 33 (.515) with three homers, four doubles and six RBIs over that span.

Ryan Braun has also been heating up with eight hits in 18 at-bats in his last four games.

Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who has missed 22 games with a strained left knee, is expected to return on Friday. He's batting .388 during a 14-game hitting streak at Miller Park.

Although it hasn't translated to many wins, Kyle Lohse (1-2, 2.53) has pitched well for Milwaukee after winning 16 games for the Cardinals last season.

The right-hander, who signed a three-year, $33 million contract as a free agent on March 25, hasn't allowed more than three runs in each of his first five starts.

He'll make his second start against his former club after giving up two runs and six hits over seven innings in a 2-0 loss to Miller on April 12 at St. Louis.

"He's a huge addition to our pitching staff,'' manager Ron Roenicke said. "That's not a knock on our young guys, but having him on the staff along with Yo (Yovani Gallardo), I think that makes us a very good team.''

Carlos Beltran should be happy to get another look at Lohse since he's 23 for 42 (.548) with four homers in this matchup.

Yadier Molina will try to continue his recent tear after going 8 for 15 over his last four games. He's 4 for 7 with a homer and double against his former battery mate.

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