Ryan Braun is out with a hand injury (Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

Can Brewers get back in contention?


The 2013 season has been a disappointing one for Brewers fans. Injuries have taken a toll and the Brew Crew currently sits in the N.L. Central cellar with a 28-41 record. Corey Hart, slated to be the everyday first-baseman, has yet to see any action in 2013 and could be out until late July.

Hart had offseason knee surgery and his rehab has been slowed by a right quad injury. Mat Gamel, who was “Plan B” at first base, had ACL surgery in March and is out for the year. That has forced the Brewers to move middle infielders to the first base position. Tonight’s starter, 9-year veteran Yuniesky Betancourt, had never played the position prior to this season.

Perhaps the biggest injury for the Brewers this season is that of leftfielder Ryan Braun. The former MVP and all-time Astro killer was placed on the disabled list a little over a week ago after struggling with a nerve injury in his right hand. Braun has a .347/.409/.647 slash line in 86 career games against Houston, including 26 homers and 79 RBIs. Astros pitchers are probably celebrating the fact that they won’t have to face Braun in their first interleague series with the Brewers. Braun has sought out a second opinion on the injury that affects both his thumb and forefinger. The Brewers hope he will be ready to return to action on June 25.

After falling out of contention early, the Brewers have been playing a little better lately. But can they actually get back in the race? This season is looking more and more like the disappointing 2012 season that saw the Brewers make a late run that turned out to be too little, too late. Milwaukee took two of three against the lowly Marlins last week and will need to win the next two against the Astros to duplicate that feat. That’s not exactly the result Brewers fans were looking for as their team took on the bottom feeders from each league.

Second-baseman Rickie Weeks has continued to struggle after having a down year in 2012. Weeks is back in the leadoff spot tonight but has recently lost playing time to rookie Scooter Gennett. I have to admit — I’d never heard of Gennett before last night. Tonight’s Milwaukee lineup is sprinkled with several names that may not be familiar to most Astros fans, especially since we don’t see the Brewers 19 times a year any more.

On the pitching side of things, both Chris Narveson and Marco Estrada are currently on the disabled list. The Brewers hope to have both back when they return to Miller Park after tomorrow’s finale. Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo get the call in the final two games of this series and both have been tough on the Astros over the years. The Brewers will need to win both of these games to make their fans happy — meaning all of the pressure is on them. The Astros can play loose, like last night, and hope for the best.

Time is running out for Milwaukee to get back into playoff contention and things aren’t looking good. The team will also be without rightfielder Norichika Aoki for the rest of the series. He was placed on the paternity list after last night’s game. It looks like a prime opportunity for the Astros to get another series win. Hopefully Erik Bedard can take advantage of some hitters who might be pressing tonight.

The A.L. Astros have fared well so far against N.L. opponents. Houston is 5-3 in interleague games after last night’s 10-1 drubbing of the Brewers. All three of the losses were by one run, so the Astros have been in every game right down to the wire.

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