Through the first four meetings between the two teams this season, Milwaukee has scored 40 runs and surpassed the 10-run mark in three of those contests, winning all three including a 13-2 decision Friday night.
The Brewers’ only loss to Philadelphia this season came last Sunday when right-hander Zach Eflin (3-2, 3.63) held them to a pair of runs over six innings as the Phillies avoided a sweep with a 4-3 victory at Citizens Bank Park.
“I go out every outing with the intent for it to be my best, but especially when you have a team that beats us twice in a row, you really kind of bear down,” Eflin said afterward. “I wouldn’t say try harder, but you want to make sure you limit your mistakes and put a stop to what’s happening.”
He’ll get another shot at holding Milwaukee’s offense in check Saturday afternoon when the Brewers (42-27) and Phillies (35-32) resume their three-game weekend series at Miller Park.
Eflin’s performance against Milwaukee helped solidify what had been a somewhat tenuous hold on rotation slot. The 24-year-old got off to a good start, posting a 1.56 ERA through his first three outings then scuffled in a pair of five-run efforts against the Blue Jays and Dodgers.
He stabilized himself by holding the Cubs to a run over 7 2/3 innings on June 5 and followed that with his strong showing against the Brewers, striking out nine.
“I think the biggest change is him being responsible for taking that step forward, him deciding how he’s going to get swings and misses,” Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. “It’s explosive fastballs up to left-handed batters and using his four-seam (fastball) instead of the two-seamer, sometimes, to left-handers has made a huge difference.”
Right-hander Junior Guerra (3-4, 2.71) takes the mound for Milwaukee, looking for his first victory since May 14. Guerra has pitched beautifully during that stretch, though, posting a 2.22 ERA with 23 strikeouts and only five walks in 28 1/3 innings of work.
He is looking much more like the pitcher who had a breakout campaign two years ago as a 31-year-old rookie, than he does the Guerra of last season, who was hindered by injuries, inconsistency and command issues.
“I’ve been working a lot with (pitching coach Derek Johnson),” Guerra said after holding the Cubs to a run over six innings in his last start. “We’ve been working a lot on rhythm, throwing strikes. That’s one of the biggest factors for me in doing this well.
“I just feel like I’m healthy, and that’s the most important thing. When I’m healthy, I feel like I can contribute to this team. That’s the most important thing compared to last year.”