Brewers, Giants in unexpected spots ahead of clash (Jun 05, 2017)

BY AP • June 4, 2017

MILWAUKEE -- When the 2017 season began, most observers figured the San Francisco Giants would be battling for a postseason berth while the Milwaukee Brewers would be way back behind the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs as they continue their complete rebuild.

Two months into the season, though, the two teams' fortunes are reversed. The surprising Brewers narrowly hold first place in the National League Central, while the Giants are trying to figure out how to climb out of a tie for last place in the NL West.

The teams open a three-game series on Monday at Miller Park. Milwaukee right-hander Junior Guerra (1-0, 1.84 ERA) will oppose San Francisco right-hander Jeff Samardzija (1-7, 4.63 ERA).

Brewers closer Corey Knebel admitted Sunday that he regularly checks the standings.

"It's kind of habit," he said. "I go in there and look at it, it's nice to see us on top, but we have to keep playing.

"It's still early, but we're right there and we're going to keep going. Whatever happens, happens. If we keep staying on top, stay together, keep winning games, everything else will come into play."

Guerra, who has never faced the Giants in his brief major league career, will try to continue a recent stretch of strong efforts from Milwaukee's starters, who have combined for a 1.32 ERA over the past 10 games. The group is 5-1 during that stretch with 61 strikeouts and just 19 walks.

"They are all in a very good place right now," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It's a good feeling when we send a guy out there that's on top of his game. I feel these guys are on top of their game, and we're getting to see quality outings for sure."

San Francisco arrives in Milwaukee after dropping two of three in Philadelphia, nine of the past 12 overall. The Giants are 12 1/2 games behind the front-running Colorado Dodgers in the West.

The Giants should get a boost from the return of Hunter Pence, who was activated from the disabled list but didn't start Sunday in Philly. Pence, who had been out since May 13 due to a strained left hamstring, entered as a sub and went 0-for-1.

To make room for Pence to come back, the Giants returned their top prospect, infielder Christian Arroyo, to Triple-A Sacramento.

"He was a shot in the arm for us and he got some big hits," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Arroyo. "I loved his defense and how he handled (slumping). He still played solid defense wherever we put him -- third, short, even second base.

"This was a great experience for him. He's ahead of the curve already, not even a full year at Triple-A. That's why he's going back down. We want to continue his progress toward becoming an everyday player."

Samardzija will look to bounce back from rough Tuesday outing at Washington, where he allowed three runs on nine hits in four innings during a 6-3 loss.

The veteran right-hander has faced Milwaukee 24 times (10 starts) in his 10-year career. He is 2-6 with a 4.82 against the Brewers with an 0-3 record and 6.15 ERA in 14 appearances (seven starts) at Miller Park.



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