Twins-Brewers Preview

The Associated Press

A home series with the Minnesota Twins usually brings out the best in the Milwaukee Brewers.

With the way things have been going, the reigning NL Central champions will be desperate for that trend to continue when they open a three-game set with the Twins on Friday night at Miller Park.

Milwaukee (16-22) lost for the fourth time in five games Thursday, falling 4-0 at Houston. The Brewers have totaled eight runs in those defeats while batting .152 with runners in scoring position.

"We have a lot of things that we have to start doing better offensively,'' manager Ron Roenicke said.

Milwaukee enters interleague play with the NL's fourth-worst record and is six games out of first in the Central. The Brewers raced to a division crown last season thanks to their outstanding play at Miller Park, leading the majors with a franchise-record 57 home wins. They didn't lose their ninth game in Milwaukee last season until June 9, their 31st home contest, but are 9-9 in front of the home fans this year.

A series with Minnesota might be what Milwaukee needs to establish some home-field advantage.

The Brewers have gone 4-2 against the Twins each of the past two seasons, and have outscored Minnesota 38-14 in winning all six meetings at Miller Park. Ryan Braun is batting .304 with a homer and seven RBIs in the six home games, Corey Hart has a 1.100 OPS and Rickie Weeks is hitting .455 with two homers and seven RBIs.

The Twins (12-26) own baseball's worst record, but they arrive in Milwaukee feeling good after beating Detroit 11-7 on Wednesday and 4-3 Thursday to sweep a two-game series from the defending AL Central champions.

"We had some good things happen - a good couple of wins here,'' manager Ron Gardenhire said. "This is the team everybody's picked to win this division, and you come in here and you win a couple of ballgames against them. It's a good feeling. It's something we can kind of build off of.''

In trying to win three straight games for the first time, Gardenhire will give the ball to Scott Diamond (2-0, 0.00 ERA), who already is tied for the team lead in victories despite being called up from Triple-A Rochester just last week.

After allowing four hits in seven innings of a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels on May 8, the left-hander yielded five hits in seven scoreless innings in Sunday's 4-3 victory over Toronto. In the two home outings, he has struck out 10 and walked one.

This will be the first appearance against the Brewers for Diamond, who went 1-5 with a 5.08 ERA in seven starts as a rookie last season.

Milwaukee counters with Marco Estrada (0-2, 4.20), who hopes to do a better job of keeping the ball in the park.

Against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, Estrada yielded two runs and five hits in six innings of an 8-2 loss, but didn't get a decision. Both runs came off solo homers, and the right-hander has now served up two home runs in each of his last three starts.

"That's what's killing me right now," he told the Brewers' official website.

The Twins have an AL-low 25 homers, but have hit two in each of their last two games.

Justin Morneau hit his fifth Thursday in his second game back from a trip to the disabled list with a wrist injury. The 2006 AL MVP is 2 for 2 with a double and a walk against Estrada.

This will be Estrada's first start against the Twins after recording a 6.35 ERA in three relief appearances against them.

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