After dealing with poor starting pitching, key injuries and plenty of rumors regarding a possible Ryan Braun drug suspension, the Milwaukee Brewers are hoping their second half goes better than the first.
The improving Miami Marlins have the same goal.
Braun is expected to return Friday night when the NL's two worst teams return from the All-Star break in Milwaukee.
The Brewers (38-56) never imagined they'd be in the NL Central basement at this point - and ahead only of the Marlins (35-58) in the league standings - but it's understandable why they're there. Milwaukee's starters have a 4.86 ERA, Corey Hart (right knee) will not play this season and Braun has played once since June 9.
Braun returned from a stint on the disabled list on July 9, but he missed the next game with the sore right thumb that landed him on the DL and the four leading into the break due to a family medical issue. He has been removed from the bereavement list, but the 2011 NL MVP remains at the center of the Biogenesis scandal that could lead to a lengthy suspension either this season or next.
"It's tough to go to war when you don't have all your weapons," catcher Jonathan Lucroy told the Brewers' official website. "But the only thing we can do right now is keep working hard and keep playing hard."
The Marlins are taking the same approach after winning 19 of 33 heading into the break. They were denied a season-best fourth consecutive victory in Sunday's 5-2, 10-inning loss to Washington."From the way we started those first couple of months (13-32), I'm very pleased with the way these guys have continued to grind it out through a lot of adversity and some tough losses," manager Mike Redmond said."By no means are we satisfied with where we're at. We know we can get better. We'll go out there in the second half and hopefully have a great second half and finish strong."
The Marlins' starting pitching has been strong - posting a 2.98 ERA over the last 26 games - and Friday's pitcher Jacob Turner (3-1, 2.33 ERA) has played a big role in that.
The young right-hander has yielded two runs or fewer in six of eight starts since being called up May 31, and threw seven innings of two-run ball in a 6-2 victory over Atlanta on July 10.
Turner faced Milwaukee for the first time June 11, giving up four runs in seven innings of a 5-4 home win. The Brewers won the other two games in that series by a combined 16-2.
After getting tagged for five runs and three homers in 6 1-3 innings of Saturday's 5-4 loss at Arizona, Kyle Lohse (5-7, 3.67) will get his first look at the Marlins in a Brewers uniform. The right hander won all three starts against Miami last season while with St. Louis, recording a 2.08 ERA.
Stanton has a homer with a team-best three RBIs against Milwaukee this season.
Lucroy went 5 for 11 with seven RBIs in that series in Miami. Carlos Gomez was 7 for 14 with three triples and five RBIs in those contests, and fellow Brewers All-Star Jean Segura finished 4 for 13 with a home run.
|June 25, 2013||Justin Ruggiano||Day-to-Day||Sore left shoulder|
|June 09, 2013||Chris Coghlan||15-Day DL||Right calf irritation|
|June 09, 2013||Casey Kotchman||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|May 27, 2013||Alex Sanabia||15-Day DL||Right groin discomfort|
|May 19, 2013||Matt Diaz||60-Day DL||Left knee bone contusion|
|May 08, 2013||Chris Valaika||60-Day DL||Fractured left wrist|
|July 09, 2013||Norichika Aoki||Day-to-Day||Left elbow tightness|
|July 07, 2013||Aramis Ramirez||15-Day DL||Sprained left knee|
|July 06, 2013||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Left knee injury|
|July 02, 2013||Wily Peralta||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
|June 24, 2013||Alfredo Figaro||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|June 23, 2013||Carlos Gomez||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shoulder sprain|
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke knows there's only one way Milwaukee is going to salvage the season. Kyle Lohse did his part.
Juan Francisco and Carlos Gomez each hit home runs and Lohse blanked Miami for six innings as the Brewers started the second half of the season with a 2-0 victory over the Marlins on Friday night.
"It felt good to get the second half started this way," Lohse said. "We just to keep playing some clean games and just keep it going."
Lohse (6-7) has owned the Marlins over his career. He came in 5-2 in nine starts, including a 3-0 record with the St. Louis Cardinals last season. He was in command all the way this time, too.
He struck out five, allowed five hits but no walks. It was his fourth win in his last five decisions.
The Brewers (39-56) are 17 games below .500 and last in the NL Central. The victory over the lowly Marlins started them on their way.
"I want to play good baseball," Roenicke said. "We played good baseball tonight."
Francisco hit an opposite-field home run in the fourth, driving a 3-2 pitch from Jacob Turner (3-2) into the left-field seats.
Gomez, fresh off his first All-Star appearance, curled a two-out, 0-2 pitch around the left-field foul pole in the fifth inning. He flipped his bat and hesitated, watching the ball sail toward the second tier in left, before racing full speed around the bases.
Francisco has 12 home runs and Gomez 15 this season.
"Whether we get back to .500 or not, we got to really play well," Roenicke said. "There's no doubt about it. We've got to play really good baseball."
Brewers tested his theory in the sixth. The results were good and could have been bad had Lohse not made key pitches.
Third baseman Jeff Bianchi helped Lohse.
Giancarlo Stanton drilled a pitch that headed down the line and looked like it was a sure hit. Bianchi lunged fully extended and snared the ball. He held it up for the ump to see that he had it.
Gomez made it difficult for Lohse when he muffed a fly ball that was ruled a double.
Logan Morrison hit a towering fly ball that Gomez tracked toward the wall in left center. The ball deflected off Gomez's glove as he tried to make the catch. Marcell Ozuna flied out to Gomez to end the inning.
John Axford and Jim Henderson each pitched a scoreless inning before Francisco Rodriguez pitched the ninth for his 10th consecutive save.
Turner faced the Brewers for the second time this season. He took a no-decision in the Marlins' 5-4 win on June 11.
"I definitely didn't have my best stuff," Turner said. "No excuse for the home runs. Francisco, I knew he got it. He's got power to the opposite field. Gomez was an 0-2 terrible pitch. The put good swings on bad pitches."
Lohse has had trouble keeping the ball in the park this season. The Arizona Diamondbacks hit three home runs in a 5-4 loss in his last start before the All-Star break. That pushed his total to an NL-leading 19 and a tie with Dan Haren of the Washington Nationals . Morrison came the closest to making it 20 in the fourth when he skied a pitch toward the right-field pole, but the ball turned just in front of the pole.
Turner was done after hitting Rickie Weeks , the first batter in the sixth. Ryan Webb came on and retired three batters. Turner went five innings, gave up five hits, walked four and struck out six.
"It was an uphill battle all night," Turner said. "Some days you have it, some days you don't."
Ryan Braun returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bereavement list on Thursday. The Brewers left-fielder last played July 9, a day after leaving the 15-day disabled list with a sore right thumb. He missed a total of five games, but not the continuing Biogenesis suspension rumors.
Braun went 0 for 3 off Turner before being replaced by Logan Schafer in the top of the seventh.
"It feels like it has been awhile and it has been awhile," Braun said. "I haven't done a lot of baseball stuff over the last 10 days, and I could tell."
NOTES: The massive stage for Paul McCartney's sold-out concert Tuesday evening at Miller Park left quite a footprint. There was a wide area of dead grass that stretched from the front of the warning track well into center field. Some of it had been re-sodded. Neither manager seemed concerned with the overall condition of the field. ... The Marlins reinstated reliever Chad Qualls (2-1, 2.89 ERA, 37 appearances) from the paternity list. The team made room for the him by optioning LHP Duane Below to Triple-A New Orleans on July 14. ... Turner had made eight starts coming into the game since being called up on May 31 from Triple-A New Orleans. His 2.34 ERA ranked seventh in the NL and ninth in majors.