The Milwaukee Brewers return to Miller Park riding their longest winning streak of the season.
Given the Brewers' history at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates, there's a good chance that run will continue.
Milwaukee goes for a fifth straight victory Friday night when these NL Central rivals begin their season series.
Back from a 5-2 trip, the Brewers (23-28) open a nine-game homestand with the first of 15 games against the Pirates (25-25) in 2012.
Milwaukee won 12 of 15 matchups a year ago, including eight of nine at Miller Park.
The Brewers have won 43 of 49 at home in this series, outscoring Pittsburgh by more than 2.6 runs per game during this stretch.
Milwaukee's last 5-0 stretch was a six-game run that started with a three-game home sweep of Pittsburgh from Aug. 12-14.
The Pirates, though, have won five of six and have a chance to move above. 500 for the first time since they were 2-1 on April 8.
Pittsburgh is batting .218 with a .272 on-base percentage - both NL lows - but the club is one of the major league leaders with a 3.23 ERA. Four of the team's last six starters have not given up a run.
But Kevin Correia (1-5, 4.30 ERA) - winless in his last seven outings - might not be brimming with confidence. Not only does he have one of the lowest run-support averages in the majors at 2.41, he has a 6.86 ERA while losing his last four starts versus Milwaukee.
Correia went 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA in two starts at Miller Park in 2011. He was 10-1 in his other 12 starts outside Pittsburgh.
The Brewers will start Randy Wolf (2-4, 5.73), who is 0-2 with a 4.71 ERA in five starts since his last victory April 30.
Wolf was 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts versus Pittsburgh last season. If the left-hander struggles Friday, Roenicke likely won't hesitate to make a call to the bullpen. Milwaukee's relievers had a 1.37 ERA on the trip.
Ryan Braun has been playing since the early days of the season with a tight right Achilles tendon, which flares up on occasion.
One of those occasions was Thursday night, when Braun was withheld from the lineup for the series finale against the Dodgers, a game Milwaukee won 6-2. Manager Ron Roenicke said Braun began feeling tightness in the heel the previous night after a hard slide into second base.
It's doubtful that the Achilles tightness will go away completely as long as Braun tries to keep playing without a long rest, but Roenicke said Braun often goes for several games without complaint.
"He tells me at times that it's real good," Roenicke said. "He'll say it feels real good, and he'll steal a base. I think some of the slides get him. He slid late into second base (Wednesday) night and said he felt it."
Roenicke said Braun would continue to be monitored closely but doesn't expect his star left fielder to miss much time with the ailment. However, the manager did caution Braun about staying on top of the situation.
"You need to feel like you're making progress (with the ailment). If not, you need to change something," Roenicke said.
The Brewers were just happy to have Braun's services in 48 out of their first 50 games. Had he not successfully appealed a 50-game suspension for a positive drug test before the season, he would not have been eligible to play before Thursday.
The Brewers' four-game sweep at Dodger Stadium was their first sweep of Los Angeles in a series of any length, home or away. They finished the season series with a 6-1 record against the Dodgers. No other club has beaten Los Angeles more than twice.
C Jonathan Lucroy underwent surgery Thursday in Milwaukee to have a pin inserted in his broken right hand. He is expected to miss six weeks.
RHP John Axford has not allowed a run in his last nine appearances (nine innings). He has 31 strikeouts in only 19 1/3 innings and is holding opponents to a .231 batting average, with 10 saves in 11 chances.
3B Aramis Ramirez's two-run homer off Los Angeles RHP Chad Billingsley on Thursday gave him 11 RBI in his last nine games. He feasted on Dodgers pitching this season, batting .346 with three homers and six RBI in seven games. Ramirez's batting average is .246, a season high.
RHP Zack Greinke bounced back from one of his worst starts for the Brewers by limiting the Dodgers to one run over six innings to boost his record to 6-2. In his previous outing in Arizona, he was tagged for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings.
LF Ryan Braun did not play Thursday due to tightness in his right Achilles tendon, a problem that has flared up a few times during the season. He was not expected to miss more than a game.
By The Numbers:
4—Consecutive games the Brewers have won, their longest winning streak of the season.
Quote To Note:
"We had to play four great games to beat them. We should be headed in the right direction with these games. It should give them a lot of confidence."
—Manager Ron Roenicke, after the Brewers' four-game sweep of Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium.