Published August 05, 2014
(SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of would-be National League powerhouses are hoping to find themselves this week.
The NL Central Division-leading Milwaukee Brewers and the wild card-chasing San Francisco Giants get together for the first of three games on Tuesday night at Miller Park.
The Brewers have seen a significant lead in the Central trimmed to a single game after a Sunday night loss to second-place St. Louis, which was the latest in a six-game stretch in which they've won just twice.
Milwaukee has possessed no worse than a share of the division lead since April 5, but it's hit just .196 over its last seven games with runners in scoring position.
Meanwhile, the Giants have won four of five -- and scored 27 runs along the way -- to nearly erase a six-game skid. Pablo Sandoval has at least a hit in each of the last five, including three for extra bases and eight runs batted in.
"He hits anything," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He hits the ball off the plate, he hits it all over the field. That's why they're a good team, because that guy drives in a lot of runs."
Right-hander Tim Lincecum gets the call for the Giants amid an up and down stretch.
He'd earned four straight wins with an ERA below 1.00 before encountering difficulty in his last three starts, which have yielded two losses and an ERA closer to 9.00.
The Giants were 7-5 winners over Pittsburgh in his last outing on Wednesday, but he lasted just 3 1/3 innings and allowed all five Pirates runs. In his last meeting with the Brewers a year ago, he threw eight scoreless innings in a 4-1 win.
He's 2-0 in his last three starts against Milwaukee.
The Brewers go with rookie right-hander Jimmy Nelson, whose turn was pushed back a day thanks to a middle finger blister.
Milwaukee has scored just three runs in Nelson's last three starts, during which he's lost two decisions and posted a 5.71 ERA. He was beaten, 2-0, by the New York Mets nine days ago after allowing five hits and both runs in seven innings.
He's never faced the Giants.
On Monday in New York, Sandoval doubled home the go-ahead run with two outs in the ninth inning, as the Giants rallied to beat the Mets, 4-3, at Citi Field.
Sandoval finished 3-for-5 with three RBI for the Giants. Hunter Pence added a pair of hits and scored twice and Joe Panik had three hits for San Francisco.
Meanwhile in St. Louis on Sunday, John Lackey emerged a winner in his Cardinals debut, thanks to a three-run seventh-inning rally that lifted the hosts to a 3-2 decision over the Brewers.
After mustering a mere one hit against a dominant Matt Garza through the first six innings, the Cardinals rocked the Milwaukee bullpen for five in the deciding seventh.
Garza had thrown just 71 pitches and allowed one hitter over the minimum prior to being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke stated afterward that the right-hander injured his left oblique near the end of the sixth inning.
"Hopefully, it's not bad," Garza said. "But it was bad enough where I had to take myself out of the game, and I don't do that. I could have kept on and made it worse, and then could have been out probably the rest of the year. I had to go with the smart play. It's one of those things where you don't like it and don't understand it."
Mark Reynolds belted a solo homer for Milwaukee and Aramis Ramirez went 2- for-4 with an RBI in the loss. Ryan Braun also finished with two hits.
Milwaukee was 5-2 versus the Giants last season.