Brewers could be without Braun against Phillies (Jul 16, 2017)

MILWAUKEE — Ryan Braun may not be in the Milwaukee Brewers’ lineup on Sunday afternoon when they go for a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies at Miller Park.

The veteran left fielder is a prime candidate for a day off as Milwaukee plays a day game after a night game, but the team is also taking a cautious approach with Braun, who will be considered day to day for the remainder of the season because of a nagging left calf injury, manager Craig Counsell said.

Braun has spent two different stretches on the disabled list because of the issue this season, missing all of May because of it. The calf cramped up just before the break, forcing him to leave a June 8 game against the Yankees in New York and sit out the final game of the first half as a precautionary measure.

But with the Brewers leading the National League Central by 5 1/2 games and trying to lock down their first playoff berth in six years — and, assuming Braun isn’t dealt at the non-waiver deadline later this month — the team wants to keep him as close to full strength as possible for the stretch run.

“He’s fine, but it’s come back before,” Counsell said. “I’m never going to say we are in the clear with that one. It’s just one of those things we are going to have to deal with and he’s going to have to be careful with it, and we are too. We are going to have to give him some breaks and get him out of some games.”

The good news for the Brewers is they’ve done well this season without him in the lineup.

And while they certainly miss his bat whenever he’s out of action, the Brewers found other big contributors to pick up the slack — notably Jesus Aguilar, whose .292 average with nine homers and 34 RBIs.

“No offense to Ryan, but there was no difference in their production,” Counsell said. “Jesus Aguilar has produced at a pretty good level. We certainly want a healthy Ryan Braun, but we’ve had success with this team because of depth and we’ll continue to rely on that if we have to.”

Jeremy Hellickson certainly won’t mind if Braun sits out Sunday. The right-hander takes the mound looking to earn his first victory since May 19.

Hellickson (5-5, 4.49 ERA) dropped three straight after that outing. He turned things around after that but has not taken a decision in his last four starts, despite posting a 3.20 ERA and striking out 19 with four walks during that stretch.

Signed to a $17 million qualifying offer before the season, Hellickson has pitched his way into trade speculation as the deadline approaches, but he’s trying to avoid looking too far down the road.

“Let’s just keep pitching like this and see what happens,” Hellickson said. “Like I’ve told you guys, I want to be here. We’ll see.”

He’ll be up against Brewers right-hander Matt Garza, who’s coming off his best outing of the season his last time out. Garza blanked Baltimore for 6 1/3 innings, striking out four, for his first victory since June 14.

The veteran has been pitching well of late. Opponents haven’t scored more than four earned runs against him in his last seven starts and he has given up five in his last three outings spanning 17 1/3 innings.

Garza is 2-2 with a 2.32 ERA in eight career starts against the Phillies but hasn’t faced them since July 2, 2015.

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