Brewers look to retake division lead from Cubs (Jul 29, 2017)

BY AP • July 29, 2017

MILWAUKEE -- After watching a 5 1/2-game lead in the National League Central disappear during a disastrous 10-game road trip, the Milwaukee Brewers wanted to make a statement this weekend against the front-running Chicago Cubs at Miller Park.

"We're in second place, they're in first place," Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw said. "We know we have to win this series to get back where we want to be. We've done a lot of sliding in the second half. This will be a big series for us, a big homestand."

Milwaukee got off to a good start Friday night, emerging from a pitcher's duel to take Game 1 of the three-game set, but now look to keep that momentum going and move back into the top spot Saturday night when right-hander Junior Guerra (1-4, 5.22) takes on Kyle Hendricks (4-3, 3.95).

Hendricks will be looking to bounce back after a rough start last week in his return from a seven-week stint on the disabled list with right hand tendinitis.

"He looked fine delivery-wise, but the ball just wasn't coming out as normal," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He just didn't have that good feel about him. But he threw, like, 90 pitches, which is good to get him stretched out moving into the next start. And the fact that he got out of there with one run, I was really pleased with that. It's a good outing to build off of."

Hendricks, MLB's ERA leader a year ago, has faced the Brewers twice this season, allowing four earned runs in each of those outings -- both Cubs victories.

He has a career 2.80 ERA against the Brewers and is 4-1 with a 2.52 ERA in six lifetime starts at Miller Park.

Guerra has also done well against the Cubs, going 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA in two career appearances -- both of them last season -- but has battled his velocity and command for much of the 2017 season.

He lasted only four innings in his last outing, allowing five runs, five hits and three walks with three strikeouts in a 6-3 loss at Philadelphia.

Through 13 outings this season, Guerra has looked vastly different from the pitcher who went 9-3 with a 2.81 ERA as a 31-year-old rookie a year ago.

"There's no question it's been different," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Today, to me, was a little bit of what we've seen in the past -- just struggling to get ahead of hitters and putting yourself in bad spots and kind of causing that survival mode because you're behind in the count and there's a lot of traffic on the bases."

Milwaukee's bats have fallen silent for much of the second half, but Maddon has been impressed with what he has seen from the Brewers this season.

"They work good at-bats and they don't expand their strike zone," he said. "Maybe one or two guys might, but for the most part, they are not expanders. You have to throw a strike. It is almost like an AL East batting lineup. You have to get them out within the strikeout."

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