The Milwaukee Brewers will look to stay hot when they welcome the National League Central rival Chicago Cubs on Monday night to open a three-game series.
Milwaukee has won four of its past five games, including a 9-3 decision over the host St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. The Brewers havewon back-to-back series against the Cubs and Cardinals to bounce back from a shaky start to the season.
"The last two games, this team has gotten hot," said Brewers catcher Manny Pina, who ripped a two-run shot Sunday for his first homer of the season. "We won the series here and now we go back home for six games (against the Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates). It's good for us to start a game like that with confidence."
However, injuries could put a damper on the Brewers' positive feelings. Christian Yelich's status is up in the air after the left fielder exited the Sunday game because of back stiffness, and third baseman Travis Shaw is a question mark after fouling a pitch off his right shin Sunday and leaving in the fifth inning.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell took a wait-and-see approach when asked about both players' status.
"For Christian, it's low back tightness, day-to-day," Counsell said. "Travis has a right shin contusion and it's going to be the same, day-to-day. We'll see how they're doing (Monday). I'm not ruling them out. We'll see how they are when they get to the field."
The main question for the Cubs is not related to injuries, but whether their bats can come alive after a largely dormant start to the season.
Chicago is coming off a 7-1 road loss against the Pirates on Sunday afternoon. It marked the fourth time in the past five games that the Cubs scored two runs or fewer.
Cubs manager David Ross is looking for a better approach from his players as a new week begins.
"I would say we have to play a little bit cleaner brand of baseball," Ross said. "I know that (all) the mistakes didn't show up on the board, but some of their leadoff hitters got on base on plays that I thought our guys usually make."
Cubs right-hander Adbert Alzolay (0-1, 7.20 ERA) will face the Brewers for the second time in a row. The 24-year-old Venezuelan gave up four runs on four hits in five innings to Milwaukee in his season debut on Tuesday.
Alzolay is 2-3 with a 4.89 ERA in 11 games (seven starts) in his brief career and 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in two games (one start) against the Brewers.
For Milwaukee, right-hander Freddy Peralta (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will look to build upon his terrific start to the season. He has given up three hits, walked seven and struck out 14 in his first seven innings over one relief appearance and one start.
In seven career games (two starts) against the Cubs, Peralta is 3-1 with a 3.78 ERA. He has 26 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings.
"I think we overlook how difficult it is to get big-league hitters out with one pitch," Brewers pitching coach Chris Hook said. "(Peralta) is able to get guys out with one pitch, but I think there's a freedom he feels and I think that's what you're seeing now. 'I've got a slider. I've got a changeup. I've got a curveball. I've got options. I never feel like I'm stuck and I have to make a perfect pitch.'"
--Field Level Media