|Hot Brewers open series with Mets|
MILWAUKEE -- It may seem like a lifetime ago, but barely a month has passed since the Milwaukee Brewers mustered two runs in a four-game sweep by the Cubs.
Since then, though, the Brewers have caught fire, winning 15 of 21 games and after finishing off a sweep of Arizona on Wednesday afternoon, the Brewers became the first National League team to reach 31 victories this season.
When they return to action Thursday night against the Mets at Miller Park, the Brewers will sit atop the National League Central, three games ahead of second-place Pittsburgh.
"It does seem a long time ago," third baseman Travis Shaw said. "It's the Cubs' division until someone else says otherwise, but I feel like we're in a good spot right now. We're playing good and we'll just try to keep it going this weekend."
Shaw has been especially good during that stretch. He's 14-for-47 in his last 13 games with five home runs and 12 RBIs.
But he's not the only one coming up with big hits. Jesus Aguilar has thrived since moving into the starting lineup when Eric Thames suffered a thumb injury and has gone 11-for-38 with five homers and 12 RBIs over his last nine games.
Combine a resurgent offense with one of the most stingy bullpens in baseball and a rotation that's held its own despite missing its top three starters, the Brewers becoming are a dangerous team.
"I think we can be very dangerous," Shaw said. "The pitching's been there all year. Offensively, we've struggled early on, but this past week you've seen how quickly this offense can strike. It's literally up and down the order. It's a different guy every day. We have that quick-strike ability and we've shown recently that we've been able to grind out some at bats and get some runs the other way, too."
Milwaukee should get a boost Thursday when Ryan Braun returns from a stint on the disabled list with a sore back. The Brewers will also get right-hander Zach Davies back from the DL and the right-hander will return to action quickly with a start against the Mets.
Davies went 2-3 with a 4.24 ERA before landing on the DL on May 3 with a rotator cuff injury but looked sharp in his lone rehab assignment with Class A Wisconsin.
Davis is 2-1 with a 5.26 ERA in five career starts against the Mets, who are looking to bounce back after a tough, ninth-inning loss to the Marlins on Wednesday night -- their second in a row after winning five of their previous six.
At 24-21, the Mets are 3 1/2 games behind NL East-leading Atlanta, which happens to be the next stop on a seven-game road trip.
"Big opportunity," Brandon Nimmo said. "We wanna rise to the challenge and if you wanna be here, you wanna play the best. And so, we're here to win and you gotta take the top guys out if you wanna make it to a World Series. So for us, I think we approach this no differently. We go and we try and win these series and try and get a few games back from the Braves, for sure."
For the opener, New York will go with left-hander Steven Matz (1-3, 4.42 ERA), whose lone victory this season came at the Brewers' expense. He held them to four runs (three earned) on three hits while working 5 1/3 innings in the Mets' 6-5 victory April 13.
Matz is 2-1 with a 4.42 ERA in three career starts versus Milwaukee.