Rockies-Brewers Preview

The Associated Press

A year ago, the Milwaukee Brewers' home dominance helped propel them to their first division crown in nearly 30 years.

It's early, but they haven't quite regained that Miller Park magic.

The Brewers try to bounce back from another home loss Saturday night against a Colorado Rockies team seeking its fourth straight victory.

After finishing with the majors' best home record last season at 57-24, Milwaukee (6-8) has lost four of its first seven games at Miller Park. A big reason for the slow start is the offense has seen a drop in production, which isn't entirely surprising with Prince Fielder leaving in the offseason to join Detroit.

The Brewers are averaging 4.0 runs with a .227 batting average and a .278 on-base percentage at home after averaging 4.8 runs while hitting .277 with a .344 OBP there a year ago.

"It is not for a lack of effort,'' Ryan Braun said. "If anything, we are trying too hard. When you see other guys struggling, everyone tries that much harder to pick each other up. We know we will be all right. It is just a matter of executing and swinging at better pitches.''

In Friday's series opener with the Rockies, Milwaukee finished with five hits and a walk in a 4-3 loss. Braun struck out in each of his three at-bats - his fourth straight game in Milwaukee without a hit - dropping his home batting average to .154. The reigning league MVP hit .351 at Miller Park last season as the Brewers celebrated their first division title since 1982.

Despite its struggles, Milwaukee's offense could break out of its funk against Drew Pomeranz (0-1, 10.38 ERA), Colorado's No. 5 starter. In his season debut against Arizona on Sunday, the left-hander allowed five runs and nine hits in 4 1-3 innings in a 5-2 loss.

This will be Pomeranz's first appearance against the Brewers.

Milwaukee's offense isn't the only reason the team is slow out of the gate at Miller Park, as the Brewers also have some pitching concerns.

Starter Chris Narveson (rotator cuff) was placed on the disabled list prior to Friday's game and closer John Axford has a 10.13 ERA in three appearances in Milwaukee after posting a 1.15 ERA and converting all 30 of his save opportunities there last year. Axford took the loss Friday, yielding Michael Cuddyer's tiebreaking RBI single in the ninth inning.

Cuddyer, who was out of the lineup with a bruised big toe until his game-winning pinch hit, is off to a fast start in his first season with the Rockies, batting .383 and tying Todd Helton for the team lead with nine RBIs.

"It's nice to get off to a good start, no matter where you are,'' said Cuddyer, who had been with Minnesota since 2001. "But especially going to a new team, it's good to get off to a good start. At the same time, we've got a long, long, long way to go.''

Helton hit his second homer Friday, while Ramon Hernandez had two hits for Colorado (7-6), winner of five of seven. In eight games against the Brewers since the start of last season, Hernandez is batting .452 with three home runs and eight RBIs.

Hernandez will look to continue his hot hitting against Marco Estrada (0-0, 3.00), who is taking the place of Narveson.

Estrada has worked exclusively out of the bullpen this season, throwing two innings or less in each of his five outings. The right-hander made seven starts last season, going 3-2 with a 3.70 ERA.

This will be his first career start against the Rockies after allowing a run over three innings in two relief outings against them last year.

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