Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011
Posted: 9:05 a.m.
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(AP) -- The Milwaukee Brewers are trying to get closer to an NL Central title, but they'll need to end some recent struggles at Wrigley Field.
Shaun Marcum has his own rough stretch to overcome.
Marcum will try to avoid losing a third consecutive start for the first time in his career Tuesday night as the Brewers look to regain some momentum in the middle game of their series with the Chicago Cubs.
Milwaukee (90-64) leads the Central by 5 12 games on second-place St. Louis with eight games remaining, giving the club a magic number of four to clinch its first division title since winning the AL East in 1982.
The Brewers failed to reduce their magic number Monday, falling 5-2 to the Cubs (68-86) to lose for the fourth time in their last five games at Wrigley.
"You're still just trying to take it game by game," said Chris Narveson, who started and took the loss in the series opener. "Magic numbers don't mean anything until you clinch."
Marcum (12-7, 3.40 ERA) will make his third attempt at matching his career-best win total from last year with Toronto. He's won just one of his last five starts, losing the last two while surrendering 11 runs and 17 hits, including three homers, in 11 2-3 innings.
The right-hander allowed six runs and two of the homers in five innings of a 6-2 loss to Colorado on Wednesday.
Marcum has never lost three straight starts in his career, but did suffer three consecutive defeats over four outings as a rookie with the Blue Jays in 2006.
He was solid in his only career meeting with the Cubs on July 28, giving up two runs in six innings of a 4-2 home victory.
Ryan Braun is trying to rebound from his 0-for-4 effort Monday. He's a .374 lifetime hitter at Wrigley Field, and is 10 for 24 with two doubles and a homer off Randy Wells, Tuesday's scheduled starter for Chicago.
Braun is making a bid to become the first Brewer to win the NL batting crown, hitting .333 to rank just ahead of New York's Jose Reyes at .331.
The Cubs have won six of eight at home after ending a six-game losing streak to Milwaukee in the opener of this series.
Geovany Soto connected for a pair of two-run homers Monday and finished with three hits and five RBIs Monday. He has three career multi-homer games - all against the Brewers.
Soto's 15 homers and 37 RBIs versus Milwaukee are his highest totals against any opponent.
"I heard about that, but I think it's maybe because we play against them so much," he said. "I got a lot of opportunities against the division."
Starlin Castro singled Monday, increasing his league-leading hit total to 196. The 21-year-old shortstop is trying to become the youngest Cub to reach 200 in a season and the first of any age since Juan Pierre had 204 hits in 2006. Castro is also attempting to reach base safely for a 33rd straight game, which would be the longest such streak for Chicago since Jerome Walton had a 43-game run July 21-Sept. 4, 1989.
Wells (7-4, 4.93) is 5-0 with a 3.57 ERA in his last nine starts, but his last loss was a 4-2 defeat at Milwaukee on July 27, when he allowed four runs over six innings.
The right-hander turned in a subpar outing Thursday, surrendering five runs and seven hits - two homers - in 4 1-3 innings but not getting a decision in the Cubs' 8-6, 11-inning loss at Cincinnati.
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