While their offense returned to form with a couple of big hits in key spots in the opener of this series, the Milwaukee Brewers extended their run of solid pitching performances to improve baseball’s best record.
Given the way he’s pitched against the Chicago Cubs, Marco Estrada should be able to continue that trend Saturday night at Miller Park.
The surprising Brewers (17-6) have been one of the majors’ top hitting teams with runners in scoring position at .262, but they went through a 3-for-30 stretch over four games before Friday.
Milwaukee got back on track by matching that total with three hits and four RBIs in 11 at-bats in a 5-2 victory over the Cubs (7-15).
Ryan Braun finished with three hits and an RBI, while Jonathan Lucroy and Lyle Overbay each had two hits and drove in a run. Carlos Gomez added three hits as the Brewers won for the sixth time in seven games.
That production certainly aided a Milwaukee rotation that has a 1.89 ERA over the last five games. After Matt Garza limited his former club to two runs over seven innings Friday, those starters rank among the major league leaders with a 2.57 ERA.
”We’re going out with the attitude that we are going to win," Garza said. "It brings up a lot better emotion. It’s confidence. That’s what we’re playing with a lot of right now.”
While its lineup faces a difficult challenge against Chicago’s Travis Wood (1-2, 2.52 ERA), Milwaukee turns to Estrada (1-1, 2.66) in hopes he can put up another strong effort.
The right-hander looks to build on his performance Sunday when he allowed one run over six innings in a 3-2, 14-inning win at Pittsburgh. He appears to have an excellent opportunity to get that done since he’s 4-0 with a 2.43 ERA in six starts against Chicago, which has dropped three in a row.
Darwin Barney (0 for 10), Anthony Rizzo (1 for 15) and Nate Schierholtz (1 for 8) haven’t had much success when facing Estrada, though Welington Castillo went 3 for 9 with two homers and Starlin Castro was 4 for 9 off him last season.
Since posting 29 runs and 47 hits over a five-game stretch, Chicago has scuffled with four runs and 10 hits over its last two. Junior Lake is 3 for 20 with 11 strikeouts in his last seven games, while Rizzo has gone 2 for 17 in his last five.
Perhaps Wood can provide a lift after going 2 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs in a 5-1 win over Arizona on Monday. He also shined on the mound, allowing one run and striking out nine over seven innings.
”I’m not out there in the nine hole just to fill a spot," said Wood, who has a 1.93 ERA in his last three outings. "You’ve got to try and be the best you can at it.”
Wood hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his seven starts against Milwaukee, going 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA.
Braun has gone 6 for 14 with a homer and three doubles when facing the left-hander over the past three seasons. He’s also batting .545 with five homers and 18 RBIs during an 11-game hitting streak against the Cubs.
The Brewers have won 34 of the last 46 meetings, including 23 of 28 at Miller Park.