Hot Brewers face test in weekend series vs. Giants
The Milwaukee Brewers finally are playing up to their preseason expectations - and even beyond.
Now comes a measuring-stick series that begins with an enticing pitching matchup, as the World Series champion San Francisco Giants come to Miller Park for a three-game series starting Friday.
Milwaukee has rebounded from a disappointing start, sweeping Colorado and Washington in back-to-back series and winning 13 of its past 16.
The Brewers get a chance to see how they stack up against the champs - although Prince Fielder doesn't quite see it that way.
''I'm not thinking about it like that,'' Fielder said. ''That's kind of corny. I'm just hoping we'll get some more wins because we're playing good baseball.''
The Giants are reeling from an injury to catcher Buster Posey, who is likely out for the season with a fractured bone in his lower left leg after a home plate collision with Florida's Scott Cousins on Wednesday.
Now they'll play the hottest team in baseball and expect to get the Brewers' best effort.
''We knew that coming in,'' Giants outfielder Cody Ross said. ''We knew that the target was going to be on our back - as it should be. We're the defending champions. Everybody wants to beat the champions. I know that when the Phillies were the champions and I was with the Marlins, we wanted to beat them more than we wanted to beat the Giants.''
Like Fielder, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke is downplaying the idea that this weekend's series has any additional importance. Even amid a recent run of success at home, Roenicke hasn't forgotten the team's mighty struggles on the road - where the Brewers are a miserable 8-17.
''I really do not look at who is coming in,'' Roenicke said. ''We went into Washington, we got swept three games. I don't care if it's the world champions, I don't care if it's the team that lost 105 games the year before, if you're not ready for that game, you're going to get beat.''
But Roenicke is embracing the appealing nature of this weekend's pitching matchups.
''The pitching matchups are going to be great,'' Roenicke said. ''They've got a great pitching staff, both bullpen and starters. So we're going to have to play good defense, we're going to have to do the little things to beat them.''
It starts Friday night with a matchup between San Francisco's Tim Lincecum (4-4, 2.06 ERA) and Milwaukee's Shaun Marcum (6-1, 2.37).
When the Brewers made a trade with Toronto for Marcum in the offseason, it certainly didn't attract the level of attention that a subsequent trade for Zack Greinke would bring to the Brewers. But while Greinke still is trying to find consistency after starting the season on the disabled list, Marcum looks like the staff ace.
Lincecum, meanwhile, is coming off a dominant complete-game shutout of Oakland on Saturday.
''We know what he's capable of doing,'' Marcum said. ''He's won two Cy Youngs. He wouldn't have won them if he wasn't as good as he is. I just have to go out there and be myself.''
Jonathan Sanchez (3-3, 3.47) faces Milwaukee's Randy Wolf (4-4, 3.70) on Saturday; Wolf is coming off a four-hit, one-run outing against Colorado. On Sunday, Matt Cain (3-3, 3.53) faces Yovani Gallardo (6-2, 4.35).
Although runs could be hard to come by for both teams this weekend, the Brewers' Corey Hart and Fielder both are having big weeks at the plate.
A monster season could propel Fielder into even better position for a massive free agent contract in the offseason, but Roenicke says Fielder's focus is in the right place.
''I think when you're focus is there, it doesn't allow all those other things to come in and get into your head and now you're putting pressure on yourself,'' Roenicke said. ''I have seen it happen in contract years. ... His attitude has been great. He's always in a good mood, he's always helping the other guys. He's a really big part of this team.''
AP Sports Writers Colin Fly and Antonio Gonzalez contributed to this report.