Monday, Sept. 19, 2011
Posted: 10:11 a.m.
Led by MVP candidate Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers are on the verge of clinching their first division title in nearly 30 years.
The slugger has also been instrumental to the Brewers' dominance over the Chicago Cubs.
Braun looks to help NL Central-leading Milwaukee win seven straight over the Cubs for the first time in Monday night's series opener at Wrigley Field.
By sweeping a three-game set in Cincinnati over the weekend, the Brewers (90-63) trimmed their magic number to four with nine games remaining to win their first division title since capturing the AL East in 1982.
"They're playing for something and we're playing for something that's totally different," Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena told his team's official website after Sunday's 3-2 loss to Houston. "They're trying to clinch the division and a playoff berth. We're just trying to win some ballgames and finish up strong."
Milwaukee, which outscored the Reds 24-5, reached the 90-win mark for the first time since winning the NL wild card in 2008. It hasn't posted more victories since finishing with 92 in 1992.
"It's hard to lose when you pitch and hit," slugger Prince Fielder said after Sunday's 8-1 win. "It feels better when you do it on the road. It's not easy to do it on the road. It gives you extra confidence."
The Brewers are a major league-best 17-5 on the road since Aug. 5, although they lost three of four during their last trip to Wrigley from June 13-16.
Milwaukee has outscored the Cubs 23-12 in winning six meetings at Miller Park since. It also won six straight in the series between 2001 and '02.
Braun is batting .524 during the Brewers' winning streak against Chicago, and he's hitting .408 with three home runs, nine doubles and 12 RBIs in 13 games against the Cubs this year.
The four-time All-Star, who is among the league leaders in homers (31), RBIs (103), doubles (36), runs (103), batting average (.336), OPS (.997) and stolen bases (31), is also batting .429 with four homers and eight RBIs during an eight-game overall hitting streak.
While he has hit most Cubs pitchers hard, scheduled starter Casey Coleman (2-8, 7.06 ERA) has gotten it the worst. Braun is 7 for 10 with a homer and two doubles against the right-hander.
Corey Hart, who hit his 25th homer Sunday and is batting .391 in his last six games, has also been a nightmare for Coleman, going 5 for 7 with a home run.
Coleman permitted six runs, six hits and three walks in 3 2-3 innings of a 7-2 loss to Cincinnati on Wednesday - his fifth straight defeat. He's 0-2 with a 6.20 ERA in four career appearances versus the Brewers.
Milwaukee's Chris Narveson (10-7, 4.40) has fared much better in the series, posting a 2.51 ERA in winning each of his five starts against the Cubs.
Narveson is set to make his first start since yielding six runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sept. 8. The left-hander, who retired all six batters he faced in a relief appearance against Colorado on Wednesday, was 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA in his previous six starts, including an outing against Chicago.
Facing the Cubs (67-86) on July 26, Narveson allowed two runs and eight hits in five-plus innings during a 3-2 victory, improving to 3-0 against them this year.
Chicago's Aramis Ramirez is 3 for 17 with two homers lifetime against Narveson.
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