MLB Insiders: Milwaukee Brewers

The Pirates close out the season with a three-game series in Milwaukee starting on Monday night. Right-hander Charlie Morton will be on the hill for the Bucs. The Brewers will start righty Shaun Marcum.

Although the Milwaukee Brewers have already clinched the NL Central, they still have a lot riding on their final few games with a chance to host a division series.

Closing the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park should significantly help those chances.

The Brewers look to continue their home dominance over the Pirates and match a franchise record for victories in Monday night's series opener.

Milwaukee (94-65) leads NL West champion Arizona by one game for the second-best record in the league. There are a couple different playoff scenarios for the Brewers - including starting a series on the road against NL East champion Philadelphia - but finishing with a better record than the Diamondbacks would guarantee they open the playoffs at Miller Park.

Milwaukee set a team record with its 55th home victory, beating Florida 9-5 on Sunday. The Brewers are one victory away from matching the franchise record of 95, set in 1979 and matched three years later.

Milwaukee would seem to have a good chance of notching one more win considering its 10-2 against Pittsburgh this season. The Brewers have also outscored the Pirates 32-13 in winning all six meetings in Milwaukee, and are 36-3 against them at Miller Park since 2007.

Charlie Morton (10-10, 3.67 ERA) gets the start for Pittsburgh.

Morton earned his first victory since Aug. 8 on Tuesday, giving up three hits in six scoreless innings of a 5-3 win over Arizona. He had posted a 6.43 ERA in losing his previous four starts.

Morton pitched well in his lone start of the season against the Brewers on Aug. 14, yielding a run and four hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 2-1, 10-inning loss. The right-hander had recorded a 6.20 ERA in losing his four previous career starts versus Milwaukee.

The Brewers counter with Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.31), who allowed a run and five hits in eight innings of Tuesday's 5-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs. That win matched his career high, set last year with Toronto.

The right-hander has 2.48 ERA in his last eight outings, which includes two starts against the Pirates. He is 1-1 with a 1.31 ERA in three games against them this year.

Although the Brewers are a major league-best 39-17 at home since May 13, they're 3-9 in Marcum's starts.

Manager Ron Roenicke would like to align his rotation as desired for the first round of the playoffs. But he also would like to secure home-field advantage in the division series.

Those quests are at odds at present.

"Unfortunately, we're in the position where these are important games, so we really can't adjust too much," Roenicke said. "You can't mess with the rotation too much, so it's going to get interesting."

Entering Monday, the Brewers were one game ahead of Arizona for home-field advantage in the division series, after beating Florida 9-5 Sunday. If the teams finish with the same record, the Diamondbacks have the tie-breaker by winning the season series, 4-3.

Atlanta is still clinging to the wild-card lead in the NL. If the Braves hold on, they would open at Milwaukee or Arizona, whichever is the No. 2 seed. The other team would go Philadelphia to open the playoffs and face Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels in Games 1 and 2.

Right-hander Yovani Gallardo is slated to pitch the final game of the season Wednesday against Pittsburgh. If he makes that start, he wouldn't have enough rest to pitch either Game 1 or 2 of the division series.

"We're trying to figure out with 'Yo' whether to keep him on that day or just wait," said Roenicke. "There's a lot we need to work out, I think the last two games especially."

If the Brewers need to win that last game to clinch home-field advantage and avoid opening in Philly, Roenicke said he'd probably pitch either right-hander Zack Greinke or Gallardo, or perhaps both for a few innings.

"We'll go day-by-day but we have a plan for what the options are," said Roenicke. "We know when we get to a certain spot what they are."

Roenicke also said he would go with a four-man rotation, which would include Greinke, Gallardo, Randy Wolf and Shaun Marcum, in some order. Lefty Chris Narveson will go to the bullpen for the postseason.

Asked how vital he considered home-field advantage, Roenicke said, "I think it's important, no doubt. I think in a five-game series, probably more important."

Notes, Quotes

RHP John Axford established a club record for saves when he converted No. 45 Saturday night in a 6-4 victory over Florida. RHP Francisco Cordero saved 44 games in 2007. Axford's save over the Marlins was his 42nd in a row, 17 more than the previous club mark.

3B Casey McGehee was out of the lineup Sunday as manager Ron Roenicke tried to give him a mental break. McGehee has been mired in the worst slump of his subpar season, with just one hit in his last 31 at-bats and four hits in his last 52 at-bats.

1B Prince Fielder surprised the Marlins by stealing second base in the first inning Saturday night for his first theft of the season. Fielder also stole one base in 2010. His career high is seven stolen bases in 2006.

RHP Zack Greinke received a no-decision Saturday night but still finished the season unbeaten at home, going 10-0 with a 3.13 ERA in 14 starts. The Brewers won all 14 of those starts.

2B Rickie Weeks, trying to work his way back into game shape after missing six weeks with a badly sprained ankle, had his best offensive game Sunday since returning. Weeks went 3-for-4, drove in a run and scored two.

By The Numbers: 55—Victories at home for the Brewers, a franchise record, after a 9-5 win over Florida.

Quote To Note: "The more opportunities you get, the more chances you get to get that record. I've had 47 opportunities because of the other guys in this locker room." —RHP John Axford, after setting the club record with 45 saves.

Medical Watch:

LHP Randy Wolf (bruised left wrist and forearm) was hurt Sept. 21 but stayed in the game. He didn't think the injury would affect his final start of the season.

RHP Brandon Kintzler (stress fracture in right arm) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 5. He felt more pain when he tried to throw on the weekend of May 22-23, and he was shut down indefinitely. In July, it was determined that he has a stress fracture, not biceps tendinitis, as was originally believed. He had surgery July 26 to have a screw inserted in his right forearm. He is scheduled to participate in the Arizona Fall League.

LHP Mitch Stetter (left hip labral irritation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 15. He began a rehab assignment with the Brewers' rookie-level Arizona League affiliate on July 7. While on an assignment with Class AAA Nashville on July 22, he continued to have discomfort in his left hip, so he returned to Milwaukee to be examined by team physician William Raasch. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 30, and he had season-ending surgery Aug. 2.

LHP Manny Parra (back tightness) missed most of spring training, went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22, and was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 23. Parra made his first rehab appearance for low Class A Wisconsin on April 9 and made seven rehab appearances for Class AAA Nashville from April 12-May 2. On May 4, the Brewers announced that he had been diagnosed with a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow as well as a flexor tendon strain. He underwent season-ending surgery Aug. 30.

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