Thanks to a pitching staff that ranks among baseball's best in ERA, the Milwaukee Brewers have been able to hold the majors' best record despite a rather average offense.
Both of those components helped end their slump in the series opener, though, and the Brewers will send Marco Estrada to the mound as he seeks another solid outing Tuesday night against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.Milwaukee's staff struggled as it dropped four of five prior to Monday as its ERA rose from 2.59 to 3.03. That current mark still stands as one of the best in the majors after Matt Garza earned his first win of the season in an 8-3 victory in the opener.The Brewers (22-11) had scored just 13 runs in their previous five games, but Carlos Gomez, Martin Maldonado and Jean Segura all homered Monday. Milwaukee's 132 runs rank among the middle of the pack in the majors, but it's 18-0 when scoring at least four."We've been talking about somewhere in there getting six, seven, eight runs, and we did," manager Ron Roenicke said. "It sets up a lot of things when you get people on base. The guys did a great job."Estrada (2-1, 3.13 ERA) has been a big reason for Milwaukee's success on the mound, recording five quality starts and giving up no more than three runs in any of his six outings. He allowed three runs in six innings Thursday but walked a season-worst four in Milwaukee's 8-3 loss to Cincinnati."If I'd have made my pitches, we could have won," Estrada said. "I left a lot of changeups up. When I tried to come inside on guys, it wasn't for a strike. It was everything."The right-hander has pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings of relief over five appearances against the Diamondbacks, including two outings in Milwaukee's five-game victory in the 2011 NL division series.Arizona (11-24), which ranks last in the majors with a 5.06 ERA, will counter with Josh Collmenter as he looks to continue improving as a starter.Collmenter (1-2, 3.77) has a 4.30 ERA while making four straight starts after giving up four runs in seven innings of Arizona's 5-4, 10-inning win over Colorado on Wednesday. The right-hander, though, has gone at least six in each of his last three outings, helping manager Kirk Gibson save his bullpen."He really started getting the ball down, locating better, getting his curveball down," Gibson said. "He was much more effective, and to throw seven innings like that was really what we needed."Collmenter has been extremely effective in his four starts against Milwaukee, including one in the NLDS. He's 2-0 with a 0.67 ERA while allowing just 11 hits and three walks in 27 innings.Aaron Hill went 4 for 4 with two RBIs for Arizona on Monday and is hitting .409 over his last 12, but outfielder A.J. Pollock didn't start for the fifth straight game due to a groin injury. He grounded out as a pinch hitter in the sixth, and his status is unclear for this contest.Ryan Braun remains on the disabled list for Milwaukee with a strained right oblique.
Chris Owings has hit .611 in at-bats to end in a fastball of 90 mph or less this season, first among 89 players with at least 20 such plate appearances. Marco Estrada's fastball has averaged 88 mph this season, the eighth-slowest fastball velocity among qualifiers.