Brewers aim for sweep of Giants

MILWAUKEE — Not that it wasn’t already important for a team trying to make the playoffs for the first time in seven years, but the Milwaukee Brewers have a big opportunity in front of them Sunday when they take on the San Francisco Giants at Miller Park.

After two wins to start the three-game series, the Brewers have a chance for their first sweep since July 2-4 against the Minnesota Twins.

More important, a victory would allow Milwaukee to at least maintain its lead over St. Louis for the top National League wild-card spot, which grew to 2 1/2 games after St. Louis dropped a second straight game to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.

If that wasn’t enough, Milwaukee finds itself right back in the thick of the NL Central race, with a three-game showdown against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field looming Monday.

“We’re doing a great job of putting ourselves in a position to get sweeps,” said Brewers outfielder and National League Most Valuable Player candidate Christian Yelich. “We haven’t been able to do it, so we have another opportunity tomorrow. We’ll see what happens.”

To do that, the Brewers will need to find a way to get past Madison Bumgarner.

The veteran left-hander allowed three runs (two earned) and struck out five in eight innings in a Giants loss to the Brewers on July 27 in San Francisco. But he has never lost at Miller Park, where he has a 2.36 ERA in four career starts, and is 7-3 with a 2.25 ERA in 11 career starts against Milwaukee overall.

He’ll match up with Brewers right-hander Zach Davies, who’s looking to build on an impressive return to the rotation after a three-month odyssey on the disabled list.

Davies, whose last big league start came May 29, held the Cubs to a run and four hits in five innings last Monday. He scattered four hits with just one walk while striking out seven but didn’t factor into the decision as Milwaukee won 4-3.

It was just his ninth start of the season and third since April 29, when he went on the disabled list for the first time with a sore shoulder. He returned a month later but faltered in two starts before landing on the DL again, only for his recovery to be thwarted along the way by back issues.

“It’s definitely fun to be back,” Davies said. “It’s been a long three months. It’s been a little bit of adversity, but it’s a little bit of a learning curve for everybody who goes through that for the first time.

“But now I’m back and healthy and trying to help the team out as best I can.”

Davies allowed only two unearned runs in six innings last season in his lone career start against the Giants, who will be trying to snap out of an offensive funk. They haven’t scored more than three runs in back-to-back games since Aug. 26-27, thanks in large part to the losses of Buster Posey, Steven Duggar and Pablo Sandoval to injury and the trade of Andrew McCutchen to the New York Yankees.

“We can’t talk about what we don’t have,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We’ve got some guys who are getting a chance to show what they can do up here.”

Bochy has been impressed by the play of the young San Francisco players filling in, including Ryder Jones, who got the Giants within a run late on a two-run homer Saturday as they dropped their seventh straight game, setting a season high, and eighth in their last nine games.

“You’ve got to keep pushing,” Bochy said. “That’s all you can do in this game.”

The Giants has lost five of six meetings with the Brewers this season.