The Milwaukee Brewers are hoping to have two middle-of-the-order players back in the starting lineup after injuries kept them out in their last game.
It is possible, however, the Brewers could get by without Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez in Tuesday night's series opener considering how Yovani Gallardo has pitched against Chicago and how inept the Cubs' offense has been.
In Sunday's 6-5 loss to Pittsburgh, Braun was out of the lineup for a second consecutive day after aggravating a right Achilles tendon injury and hurting his right hip Friday. The reigning NL MVP, who leads the team with 14 homers and 36 RBIs, entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning with Milwaukee (24-30) trailing by one and flew out to right.
The Brewers were also without Ramirez, who is batting .349 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in his last 11 games, after he strained his left quadriceps Saturday.
Milwaukee, which already has Jonathan Lucroy and his .345 average and 30 RBIs on the disabled list, cannot afford to be without Braun and Ramirez for too long, but it doesn't appear their injuries are too serious.
"We'll see where they are Tuesday," manager Ron Roenicke told the Brewers' official website. "It's been a weird season so far. I still think, with the pitching staff and whoever we put out there (we can win)."
That seems especially true with Gallardo (4-4, 4.22 ERA) going up against the Cubs, who arrive in Milwaukee after scoring six runs in being swept in a four-game series in San Francisco.
They now have the pleasure of facing Gallardo, who has limited them to one run or less in six of his last seven matchups. In those outings, Gallardo is 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 46 innings.
The right-hander allowed a run and five hits in seven innings of a 2-1 win at Wrigley Field on April 11.
With a 3-2 defeat Monday, Chicago (18-36) matched the franchise's longest road losing streak of 11, set June 18-29, 1954. The Cubs, losers of 16 of 19 overall and 10 of 11 at Miller Park, have scored 14 times in their last nine road defeats.
Opposing starting pitchers have a 1.17 ERA in Chicago's last 10 games away from home.
"You take things like this personally," said manager Dale Sveum, a former hitting coach. "I've lost sleep over it. You take pride in a lot of things, and that's one of them."
Ryan Dempster (0-3, 2.90) was the tough-luck loser against Gallardo in April, yielding two runs and five hits over 6 2-3 innings in one of the many games he failed to win despite pitching well.
Dempster has allowed two runs or fewer six times this season as his winless streak has reached 18 starts, the longest by a Cub since Danny Jackson went 20 in a row from 1991-92.
Although Dempster, who has a 5.40 ERA in losing his last three starts to Milwaukee, has pitched better than his record indicates, he is coming off his worst outing of the season. The right-hander surrendered six runs, six hits - three homers - and four walks in 4 1-3 innings of an 8-6 victory over San Diego on Wednesday.
Gallardo is 3-1 with a 2.59 ERA in his last five starts, allowing three runs and eight hits while striking out eight in six innings of a 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday.
Chicago shortstop Starlin Castro, who was 2 for 15 with six strikeouts in the Giants series, is 7 for 20 with three doubles against Gallardo.
Braun is 4 for 8 with a pair of doubles versus Dempster since the start of last season.