Despite being hit hard through his first two starts, Cliff Lee has managed a pair of victories. The Milwaukee Brewers, however, haven’t let much strong hitting go to waste.
Lee will try to take a smoother route to the win column Thursday night in his first home start of the season as the Philadelphia Phillies try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the hot-hitting Brewers.
Milwaukee (6-2) has won five straight overall as well as five in a row against Philadelphia (3-5) after Wednesday’s 9-4 victory at Citizens Bank Park. The Brewers are batting .321 during the winning streak and seek their second straight road sweep after handling Boston at Fenway Park over the weekend.
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"When you win on the road, and not just winning but against the teams that we’re playing, then it becomes really important," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said.
Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez went 3 for 5 with a home run, while Ryan Braun followed his three-homer game Tuesday with a two-run triple in the top of the eighth to extend the lead to 7-4. First baseman Mark Reynolds also went deep.
"We’re just getting hit after hit and it’s fun to be a part of," Reynolds said. "Offenses go through this, they just click. Guys get big hits. You go through these streaks where it’s fun to be a part of and tough to get us out. We’re just going to ride this streak out as long as we can."
Braun has nine RBIs in the series and 23 in 21 career games at Citizens Bank, and he could improve on those numbers as he enters Thursday’s game with a 10-for-23 lifetime mark against Lee – including three home runs.
After allowing eight runs in his opening-day start at Texas, Lee (2-0, 6.00 ERA) held the Cubs scoreless in a 2-0 win Saturday in Chicago, but he still allowed 10 hits. Opponents are batting .375 against him thus far in 2014.
He faced Milwaukee twice last year, going 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA while fanning 20 in 14 2-3 innings over two quality starts.
Lee’s teammates can make things easier on him by eliminating mistakes in the field. They’ve committed nine errors this season and opponents have scored 10 unearned runs in the last three games.
"We definitely have to straighten things up," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "We’re working on it."
Should the Milwaukee bats stay hot, Marco Estrada will be the next beneficiary. Estrada (0-0, 1.59 ERA) allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits in 5 2-3 innings of a no-decision Friday in a 6-2 win at Boston.
In 10 starts since Aug. 7, he’s 3-0 with a 2.10 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and .169 opponents’ batting average.
That doesn’t include any work against the Phillies, who have given him a harder time, especially as a starter. In two career starts, he has a 9.00 ERA against them with a pair of no-decisions.
Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who has missed consecutive games with the flu, is 3 for 5 with three RBIs against Estrada, while first baseman Ryan Howard is 3 for 7 with a home run and three RBIs.
Utley is hitting .458 with two homers and six RBIs in six games this season.