The Brewers will face the NL’s two worst teams during a critical seven-game road trip that begins Monday night at PNC Park, where they’ll hope to continue their recent dominance of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
If there’s any consolation for the Brewers following Sunday’s loss, it is their schedule for the next week. Milwaukee had won 17 in a row against the last-place Pirates (46-70) before dropping two of three at PNC last month, and it will follow that series with four games in the nation’s capital against the major league-worst Nationals.
Pittsburgh has lost 12 of 13, and totaled four runs during its four-game losing streak. It didn’t get a chance to salvage the finale of a three-game set Sunday against the Chicago Cubs, as a rain delay of more than three hours eventually gave way to a postponement.
Ross Ohlendorf was scheduled to start Sunday, but will be pushed back to Tuesday, leaving Kevin Hart (3-2, 3.69 ERA) as Monday’s starter.
Acquired from the Cubs on July 30, Hart delivered a quality start in his first outing with the Pirates, but was hit hard Wednesday at Colorado. The right-hander gave up five runs and eight hits over 5 1-3 innings in an 8-0 loss to the Rockies.
Hart hasn’t received a decision in five career relief appearances against Milwaukee, posting a 3.52 ERA in 7 2-3 innings.
Carlos Villanueva (2-9, 5.80) will take the ball for the Brewers, and he’s yet to win in four starts after spending the first half of the season in the bullpen.
The right-hander is 0-2 with a 4.95 ERA as a starter, but had his lengthiest outing Wednesday against San Diego. Villanueva gave up two runs and five hits over 5 2-3 innings, but was denied a decision in the Padres’ 6-5 comeback win.
Villanueva is 2-1 with a 2.10 ERA in 13 appearances - one start - versus Pittsburgh.
With a 2-4 record and 6.75 ERA in his first six starts with the Brewers, Mike Burns realized he had gotten away from the approach that helped him fashion a 7-2 record and 2.55 ERA in 12 starts at Class AAA Nashville. Mainly, he abandoned his fastball and was trying too often to fool hitters with breaking balls.
"When I got here, I got away from my game plan," said Burns. "I went with a lot of off-speed pitches. My off-speed stuff is pretty average. And I like pitching inside."
Burns returned to his fastball Saturday night to pitch the Brewers to a 6-2 victory over Houston. In seven innings, the journeyman allowed only four hits and two runs, with three walks and seven strikeouts.
Burns showed how beneficial fastball command can be in escaping a turning-point situation in the sixth inning. With the Brewers ahead, 3-0, the Astros put two on with no outs when pinch-hitter Darin Erstad doubled and Michael Bourn walked.
Burns escaped by jamming Miguel Tejada with a fastball and getting him to bounce into a 6-3 double play. He then worked Lance Berkman up the ladder, striking him out with a high fastball to snuff the rally.
"I thought the sixth inning was a big inning for him," said manager Ken Macha.
It had been two weeks since Burns last started. With the expected return dates of Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan more than a week away, he had no idea when he might get the ball again but saw no sense in worrying about it.
"There's not much you can do," he said. "Whatever role you have, you try to do the best you can do in that situation. I'm trying to do whatever I can do to help us win."
ASTROS 8, BREWERS 5: After weeks of trying to battle through problems in the starting rotation, the bullpen has become just as problematic for the Brewers. After taking a one-run lead through seven innings, the Brewers' relief corps crumbled, allowing three runs in the eighth and another in the ninth. RHP David Weathers surrendered a two-run homer in the eighth that put the Astros ahead to stay. LF Ryan Braun and 1B Prince Fielder continued their banner seasons with home runs but the Brewers' saw the modest three-game win streak come to an end. It was their longest streak since sweeping a series in Cleveland from June 15-17. With two on in the bottom of the ninth, Fielder hit a deep drive to right off RHP Jose Valverde that was caught on the warning track.
--1B Prince Fielder hit his 30th homer Sunday and became the first Brewer to record three consecutive seasons of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs. Fielder had 50 homers and 119 RBIs in 2007 and 34 homers and 102 RBIs last season. Former OFs Jeromy Burnitz and Gorman Thomas had three 30/100 seasons but not in a row.
--OF Kentrail Davis, a supplemental first-round draft pick from the University of Tennessee, was in Milwaukee on Sunday but no agreement was announced. The sides were expected to reach a deal before the deadline Monday.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Series won by the Brewers out of 11 played (2-8-2) since the beginning of July through August 16.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody makes it sound like we're 20 games under .500. We could have an eight-game winning streak like the Washington Nationals. We've got a chance to get going. It's not all gloom and doom." -- General manager Doug Melvin.
--RHP Jeff Suppan allowed five hits and four runs in 3 1/3 innings in a minor league rehabilitation start Saturday night for Class A Wisconsin. Suppan (oblique strain) will make an appearance Thursday with Class AAA Nashville on a plan that would return him to the Brewers' rotation Aug. 25 against Cincinnati.
--RHP Dave Bush, who pitched a simulated game Saturday, will make a minor league rehab start Tuesday for Class A Wisconsin, then another with Class AA Huntsville on Saturday. If all goes well, Bush (triceps tear) will rejoin the rotation on Aug. 27 against Cincinnati.
--RHP Mike Burns limited the Houston Astros to two runs over seven innings Saturday night in his longest outing in the majors. It was the first time the Brewers had quality starts in consecutive games since they had three in a row from July 17 through 19.
RHP Jesus Colome (bruised right pinkie) left the Aug. 11 game. X-rays were negative, but he did not pitch Aug. 12-13.
RHP Jeff Suppan (left oblique strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 28. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Wisconsin on Aug. 15.
RHP Dave Bush (minor right triceps tear) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 21. He began a minor league rehab assignment July 10, but he felt arm fatigue after a July 15 start. He started a throwing program July 24, and he will begin a rehab assignment in the hopes of being activated on Aug. 27.
OF Corey Hart (appendectomy) went on the 15-day disabled list Aug. 3. He will miss up to a month.
RHP Seth McClung (right elbow discomfort) went on the 15-day disabled list July 25.
2B Rickie Weeks (torn tendon sheath in left wrist) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 18, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 14. He had season-ending surgery May 20.
RHP David Riske (right elbow tightness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 10, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 4. He had season-ending Tommy John surgery June 2.