The Milwaukee Brewers struggled to overcome the worst pitching staff in the majors early on, but the group has turned things around in the past two weeks.
Having played a role in that reversal, Junior Guerra will try to become the first starter to win his first four decisions with the club in eight years Wednesday night in the second of this three-game road set against the light-hitting Atlanta Braves.
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Milwaukee (19-26) took a chance on Guerra in October when it acquired the 31-year-old off waivers from the Chicago White Sox. The Brewers are starting to reap the benefits after recalling him from Triple-A Colorado Springs earlier this month.
After allowing two hits over six innings in a 1-0 home win over San Diego on May 13, Guerra (3-0, 3.96 ERA) gave up three runs and struck out a career-high 11 over seven innings in Thursday’s 5-3 home victory over the high-scoring Chicago Cubs.
The Brewers have won each of Guerra’s four starts. Now the right-hander has an opportunity to become the first starter to win his first four decisions with Milwaukee since CC Sabathia won nine in a row from July 8-August 31, 2008.
"We had some hopes for him when we claimed him," manager Craig Counsell told MLB’s official website. "We saw some things in Colorado Springs that we really liked."
The journeyman has been effective by mixing in a split-finger with his 94-96 mph fastball. That’ll be the game plan again as he tries to contribute to a staff that has a 3.12 ERA in its last 16 after posting a MLB-worst 5.69 mark through May 6.
"It’s a good pitch, and it plays off his other stuff very well," Counsell added.
Atlanta (12-32) has averaged 2.4 runs while dropping 13 of its last 14 games at Turner Field. Rookie outfielder Mallex Smith drove in the only run as the Braves finished with five hits in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss in the opener of this three-game series.
"At some point in time it’s going to start going our way," interim manager Brian Snitker said after his club fell to a major league-worst 2-18 at home.
The Braves will try to get something going for Mike Foltynewicz, who looks to rebound after allowing five runs and seven hits over three innings in Thursday’s 8-2 loss at Pittsburgh. He had given up just two runs in 15 innings over his two prior outings.
"It’s all part of the process," said Snitker, who has guided the club to a 3-4 record since replacing Fredi Gonzalez. "I can see what he’s capable of. It’s just the consistency."
In his only start versus Milwaukee, Foltynewicz (1-2, 4.57) surrendered one run and three hits while fanning seven over 7 2/3 innings in a 2-1 home win last May. Aaron Hill has gone 2 for 2 with a walk against the right-hander dating to his time with Arizona.
The Brewers have totaled nine runs and batted .176 over their last four games. Ryan Braun hit his eighth home run and Scooter Gennett had the go-ahead RBI single in the eighth inning Tuesday, but Milwaukee finished with only two other hits.
"It’s very important, especially after the (0-4) series we had with (the New York Mets)," Gennett said. "Hopefully we can take the series tomorrow."