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News » Brewers-Astros Preview 2009-04-26

Brewers-Astros Preview 2009-04-26

Brewers-Astros Preview 2009-04-26
The Milwaukee Brewers knew their pitching staff took a big hit in the offseason, when they lost their top two starters to free agency.

Right now, Ryan Braun seems intent on carrying Milwaukee by himself.

Braun's offensive tear has highlighted the Brewers' recent surge, and the left fielder will try to keep rolling Sunday afternoon as visiting Milwaukee can extend its winning streak to five if it's able to complete a three-game sweep of the Houston Astros.

The Brewers (8-9) were reeling after an 11-4 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday, their ninth in 13 games to kick off the season. There was a bright spot to that otherwise discouraging performance, however. Braun, batting just .222 with a homer and five RBIs coming into the game, went 5-for-5 with a pair of home runs.

He's hit safely in each game since then as well. Braun helped Milwaukee close its series in Philadelphia with two wins by hitting a two-run homer on Thursday, and went 4-for-6 Saturday to lift the Brewers 9-8 in 11 innings, their second straight win against the Astros (6-12).

"I've slowed everything down. I'm dictating the pace instead of letting the opposition do it," Braun said. "I knew eventually I'd go on a streak like this."

Braun has never faced Houston starter Russ Ortiz (1-0, 5.93 ERA), who will try to help the Astros stop a three-game skid and close their 10-game homestand at 4-6.

Ortiz hasn't looked very good in his return after missing a year following surgery to repair a torn tendon in his throwing elbow, but he did get a win his last time out. The right-hander gave up three runs in five innings, allowing three hits and five walks, but Houston won 8-5 to give Ortiz his first victory since April 20, 2007.

"I kept plugging away and had to battle the best as I could to get through as many innings as I could," said Ortiz, who's 4-20 with a 7.34 ERA in 55 appearances - 34 starts - since May 24, 2005.

Ortiz is 4-3 with a 5.23 ERA in nine career starts against Milwaukee.

The Brewers will hand the ball to Manny Parra (0-3, 8.16) as they try for their first-ever sweep in Houston, but Parra has been a major disappointment so far in 2009 after showing signs of promise in his rookie season.

The left-hander was on the mound for Milwaukee's latest defeat, giving up seven hits, three walks and five runs over four innings in Tuesday's 11-4 loss at Philadelphia.

"(My pitches are) up in the zone right now," Parra told the Brewers' official Web site of the source of his troubles. "It's mechanical, I'm sure. I'm working my butt off between starts on getting the ball down. ... You see progress, but it's just inconsistent right now."

Parra was 3-2 with a 5.47 ERA against Houston as a rookie, but he had a 9.64 ERA in two starts at Minute Maid Park, where he allowed five homers in just 9 1-3 innings.

Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee are a combined 11-for-21 (.523) with five extra-base hits against Parra, whose career ERA is nearly 2 1/2 runs higher on the road.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 26, 2009

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