Preview: Brewers vs. Braves

MILWAUKEE — For the Atlanta Braves, the big question as they headed from a long three-game series in Yankee Stadium to Milwaukee concerns the status of star first baseman Freddie Freeman.

All indications are Freeman will play the opener of a four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers, but it will not be official until the lineup card is posted Thursday afternoon at Miller Park.

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“If you ask him, he’s going to say yes,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “But until we get there and see how it is, we won’t know. It was probably good that we got him out of there and started on some treatment.”

Freeman exited in the fourth inning of Thursday’s 6-2 loss to the New York Yankee Stadium with an upper right arm contusion. He was injured when he was hit in the third inning by CC Sabathia, and by pulling him early to get treatment, Freeman and the Braves hope the precautionary measure means he can play Thursday.

“Luckily, it didn’t hit my hand,” Freeman said. “I’ll take the elbow and a little soreness. As long as I have the strength in my arm tomorrow, I can deal with the pain.”

Atlanta is 4-2 on its 10-game trip. The Braves swept three games in St. Louis last weekend and took a 5-3, 11-inning victory over the Yankees on Monday before losing the last two games.

“I thought we handled ourselves really well,” Snitker said. “We won a really tough game the first night, we put ourselves in a position to win today and today here we come again. The guys never quit. They know they can play with anybody and it’s a good sign.”

Milwaukee (51-35) is the first team in the National League to reach 50 wins after completing a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins with a 3-2 win on Wednesday.

Brad Miller and Nate Orf played roles in three close wins as Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell is employing a mix-and-match approach at shortstop. He is using that strategy while remaining optimistic that shortstop Orlando Arcia will rediscover his offensive stroke at Triple-A Colorado Springs and rejoin Milwaukee for a playoff push.

Miller has gotten off to a good start with the Brewers. He extended his hitting streak to nine games Wednesday and has a hit in 10 of 12 games since joining the team, with a pair of home runs.

Orf was batting .307 with an .875 OPS when he was summoned Monday from Triple-A and recorded his first career hit with a solo home run against the Twins.

Both are immediate offensive upgrades to Arcia, who was slashing .197/.231/.482 but remained in the regular lineup because of his defensive ability.

While Miller saw extensive action at the position earlier in his career and Orf has spent most of the season there at Colorado Springs, neither player is a natural shortstop so Counsell was prepared to sacrifice defense to shore up the bottom of the order.

“When we sent Orlando down, we had multiple players on the roster who aren’t true shortstops so we’re trying to find guys who can play shortstop and who can kind of fill in at shortstop,” he said. “I don’t think we have an answer, but this is how we’re going to try it.”

A more stable solution could be coming soon. Tyler Saladino was on a roll before suffering a severe ankle sprain on May 29.

In 16 games with the Brewers, he batted .324 with three home runs and eight RBIs while playing defense well enough to make it possible for Milwaukee to send Arcia down a first time on May 25.

Saladino has been rehabbing for the last week and could rejoin the team in the next few days.

“Tyler will be back soon and will end up having some of the shortstop duties,” Counsell said. “We’ll sit down here soon and figure that out.”

The right-handed hitting Orf is likely to get the starting nod Thursday when the Brewers face Braves left-hander Max Fried.

Fried (1-2, 2.55 ERA) returned to the rotation last week when Brandon McCarthy was placed on the disabled list and struck out 11 over 6 2/3 innings and earned his first victory of the season as Atlanta beat the Cardinals in St. Louis.

Fried remained with the team after his last outing but didn’t learn for sure that he’d get another start until Wednesday morning. He’s looking forward to getting his first taste of meaningful action as the two winningest teams in the National League face off for the first time this season.

Milwaukee counters with right-hander Jhoulys Chacin (6-3, 3.71) who bounced back from his worst outing of the season to hold the Cincinnati Reds to a run over five innings while striking out nine his last time out.

Signed to a two-year contract over the winter, Chacin has been a stabilizing force in the Brewers’ rotation. He leads the staff with 18 starts and 97 innings his season.

Chacin has pitched well against Atlanta throughout his career, posting a 3.94 ERA in six previous starts. Due to a lack of run support in those contests, is just 1-4 lifetime against the Braves.