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Mon, Jun 3, 2013 - 8:10 PM ET
 

Athletics-Brewers Preview

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Pitching has been vital to the Oakland Athletics' surge.

It's been just as important to the Milwaukee Brewers' woes.

The A's are hoping Tommy Milone can keep the success on the mound going as they visit the struggling Brewers for the first time in 16 years Monday night.

Oakland (34-24) has won 14 of 16 behind a 2.45 ERA after compiling a 4.85 ERA - 5.62 from the rotation - while dropping 18 of the previous 26.

"I think it's something where we feed off each other. This team is built around pitching and defense," said Jarrod Parker, who allowed two hits in 6 1-3 innings of Sunday's 2-0 win over the Chicago White Sox to sweep the three-game series.

Parker and the rest of the starters have posted a 2.67 ERA while lasting at least six innings in all but three of those 16 contests.

"We love it down there," closer Grant Balfour said. "It makes our jobs a lot easier."

Oakland has won each of the last three starts by Milone (5-5, 4.04 ERA), though he hasn't been particularly sharp, going 2-0 with a 5.00 ERA. He had lost his five previous outings with a 3.62 ERA, receiving only four total runs of support.

The offense helped the left-hander out Wednesday, when he gave up four runs and two homers with three walks in five innings of a 9-6 win at San Francisco.

This will be the first time Oakland visits Miller Park since the club's last road series with the Brewers came at Milwaukee County Stadium in 1997, the first year of interleague play.

The A's swept the most recent series at home, taking all three meetings June 10-12, 2002.

Improvement on the mound likely will be needed if the Brewers are to prevent a similar fate. Their 4.55 ERA is the worst in the NL, with the rotation compiling a 6.75 mark during a 7-23 slide that has dropped the team to the bottom of the NL Central.

Pitching was a major problem again Sunday, as starter Mike Fiers was tagged for seven runs while recording only five outs before Milwaukee's rally fell short in a 7-5 defeat at Philadelphia.

Now, Marco Estrada (4-3, 4.96) is scheduled to get his turn on the rubber, and he's been feast of famine over his last five starts, going 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA.

The right-hander has surrendered 12 runs in 10 1-3 innings in those defeats, but has a 2.75 ERA in the other three outings - all Brewers wins.

Estrada struggled early at Minnesota on Wednesday, giving up three runs in the opening inning before allowing one over the next six of a 4-1 loss.

"We've all been struggling so you want to go out there and give your team the best chance to win. When you give up three runs in the first inning, it kind of kills you," Estrada said.

He's 0-4 with a 6.18 ERA in eight interleague games - three starts.

Catcher Jonathan Lucroy has been a rare bright spot for the Brewers, hitting .433 with three homers and nine RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak.

Milwaukee will try to avoid losing five straight at home for the third time this season.

Tagged: Brewers, Athletics, Marco Estrada

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