Despite being only marginally better than the Chicago Cubs in the standings, the Milwaukee Brewers' recent run of dominance in the series hasn't skipped a beat this year.
They'll look to continue that Wednesday night against left-hander Chris Rusin at Miller Park, a matchup that appears favorable considering their success versus southpaws.
After a 4-3 victory Tuesday following Logan Schafer's game-winning squeeze bunt, Milwaukee (67-83) has won 32 of the last 43 meetings between the teams dating back to July 26, 2011. The Brewers finished a combined 47 games ahead of the Cubs over the last two seasons, but are only 4 1/2 games better this year.
Milwaukee, though, owns a 12-5 edge in 2013, including four straight victories in which the Cubs (63-88) have been held to a combined eight runs and 21 hits.
The Brewers are one of baseball's better teams against left-handed pitching, with their .266 average and .419 slugging percentage both ranking near the top of the majors.
Norichika Aoki, Jean Segura, Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy all rank among the NL's top 20 versus left-handers with batting averages of .342, .317, .314 and .307, respectively.
Rusin (2-4, 2.85 ERA) lasted just 3 2-3 innings in an 8-5 win over Milwaukee on Sept. 6, allowing two runs and seven hits, but has been pitched well of late with a 2.45 ERA over his last four outings.
He matched a career high by going seven innings while allowing two runs and four hits in a 3-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Thursday as he continues to audition for a potential spot in the team's 2014 rotation.
"We'll cross those bridges when we get to it," manager Dale Sveum said. "He's definitely put himself in a position to have every opportunity to make the rotation."
Former Cub Aramis Ramirez, who is slugging .549 in 71 at-bats against left-handers this year, is 2 for 3 off Rusin with a homer.
The Brewers will counter Rusin with another impressive rookie in Tyler Thornburg (2-1, 2.18). The right-hander has thrown exactly six innings in each of his five starts this year while going 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA.
He limited a potent St. Louis lineup to two runs and three hits in a 5-3 victory at Busch Stadium on Thursday, his first career win as a starter.
"I thought I threw the ball pretty well," Thornburg said. "I was locating my fastball pretty well. Everything felt good."
Thornburg threw six shutout innings during a 3-2 win at Chicago on July 30, his first start of the year and only appearance against the Cubs.
Darwin Barney will try to break out of a slump as he's just 1 for 17 over his last six games.
Lucroy is 4 for 28 (.143) with eight strikeouts over his last nine contests.
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