Phillies-Brewers Preview

The Associated Press

Ryan Braun's status for Monday night's series opener of a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies is unclear after a back issue sidelined him over the weekend.

While the slumping Milwaukee Brewers would love to see him return, the visiting Phillies surely wouldn't mind seeing him sit out.

One day after exiting in the second inning, Braun missed Sunday's 4-2 loss at Cincinnati due to back spasms. Braun was hitting .375 with five extra-base hits and 10 RBIs over an eight-game stretch before leaving Saturday.

"Everybody deals with different things throughout the course of the season," the former NL MVP told MLB's official website. "Things are going well, so hopefully a day or two, just a minimal thing, get right back in there and keep doing what I've been doing."

Braun has always hit Philadelphia hard, posting 17 homers and 40 RBIs in 46 games. He's a career .393 hitter against the Phillies, by far his highest average against any NL club.

Braun was especially locked in during a three-game road sweep in April, going 6 for 12 with three homers and 10 RBIs. Milwaukee has hit .314 and outscored the Phillies 43-18 during a six-game winning streak.

However, the NL-leading Brewers (52-37) have dropped five of six overall after collecting just four hits Sunday. Milwaukee has been limited to a .173 average and 2.3 runs per game during its funk.

"Getting two runs for this offense is a low score," outfielder Logan Schafer said. "We have the ability to put up a lot more runs really quickly."

The Brewers aren't likely to get much sympathy from the last-place Phillies (37-51). Philadelphia has lost nine of 10 after getting swept in Pittsburgh over the weekend, falling 6-2 in Sunday's finale. Marlon Byrd provided all the offense with a homer and two RBIs.

"I'm not losing faith in it," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We'll continue to have the guys fight and battle and try and break out of it. There's more potential there in my opinion than what we've shown."

Byrd has proven to be a rare bright spot, hitting five homers over the last seven games. He's batting .341 with three homers and 13 RBIs during a 10-game stretch versus Milwaukee.

Looking to get the Phillies back on track is Cole Hamels (2-5, 2.98 ERA), who's gone 0-2 despite a 2.10 ERA over his last five outings while receiving a combined five runs of support.

"It's kind of a tough situation," said Hamels, who allowed three runs and four walks over five innings in Wednesday's 5-0 loss at Miami. "All I can do is be accountable for what I do on the field and prepare. ... It definitely wears on you."

Hamels had won four consecutive starts against the Brewers behind a 2.08 ERA before allowing seven runs and a career-worst 12 hits over five-plus innings in an 8-5 defeat May 31, 2013. Braun is 9 for 28 with three homers in their matchups and Jonathan Lucroy 6 for 11.

Hamels will be opposed by Marco Estrada (7-5, 4.94), who allowed two more homers - both solo shots - over six-plus innings in Tuesday's 4-1 loss at Toronto. Hitters have taken the right-hander deep 26 times, by far the most in the majors.

Estrada yielded two runs over six innings in a 6-2 victory at Philadelphia on April 10, with his only real blemish coming on a solo homer to Byrd. Estrada posted a 9.00 ERA in his only other two starts against the Phillies, both in 2012.

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