(Sports Network) - Both the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs were expected to contend for a playoff spot this year. Instead, the two clubs will both be looking to snap five-game losing streaks in this evening's opener of a three- game series at Wrigley Field.
The 2010 season hasn't gone either the Brewers or Cubs way, as Milwaukee is 11 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central and Chicago is 13 off the pace. That has both clubs looking towards next season. Chicago manager Lou Piniella has already announced his plans to retire at year's end, while Milwaukee faces the free agency of slugger Prince Fielder following the 2011 campaign.
Fielder won't be joined in free agency by teammate Corey Hart after the All- Star outfielder signed a three-year contract extension on Monday morning. Hart is hitting .288 with 23 homers and 72 RBI this year.
Hart's most recent homer was a two-run shot in the sixth inning on Sunday that snapped the Brewers' 28-inning scoreless drought. It was also the only runs Milwaukee managed in the 5-2 loss to Houston.
The Brewers lost the first two games of that set by way of a shutout and are being outscored 38-8 over their losing streak. Milwaukee went just 1-for-22 with runners in scoring position versus Houston and lost starter Randy Wolf on Sunday after he was hit on the left wrist by a line drive in the seventh inning. He exited with the lead, but Kameron Loe allowed a pair of runs to take the loss.
Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo had won three of his past four starts before matching the shortest outing of his career last time out. The 24-year-old yielded six runs -- five earned -- on 10 hits over just 2 2/3 innings of a loss to the Reds on Tuesday, falling to 9-5 with a 2.77 earned run average on the season.
Gallardo has been excellent in 10 road starts this year, going 5-1 with a 2.06 ERA. He was at home the last time he faced the Cubs, getting a no-decision on June 8 despite seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball.
The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.30 ERA in five career starts versus Chicago, which comes into this game on its longest losing streak of the season.
The Cubs not only lost Sunday's game in Colorado, 8-7, but also starting pitcher Carlos Silva after just four batters due to an abnormal heart rate.
Chicago nearly rallied to victory. Marlon Byrd pulled the Cubs to within two after bringing home a pair of runs with a triple in the ninth inning. Alfonso Soriano, who homered early in the game, was then robbed of another by Colorado's Dexter Fowler, but the sacrifice fly brought home Byrd. The Cubs could do no further damage, however.
"It's disappointing that we lost, but when you're behind like that it's tough to come back," said Cubs acting manager Alan Trammell. "We had a shot because if the ball goes out there we tie the game."
Piniella was not at Sunday's game because he was attending the funeral of his uncle.
Chicago will send Randy Wells to the hill tonight, and he threw 14 scoreless innings over two previous starts before a loss to Houston on Wednesday. The 27-year-old righty gave up three runs on five hits and five walks over 5 2/3 innings of an 8-1 loss, falling to 5-8 with a 4.10 ERA on the season.
Wells is 1-0 with a 4.05 ERA in two starts versus the Brewers this year and 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA against them lifetime.
Chicago has won six of nine versus Milwaukee this year and took two of three from the Brewers at Wrigley Field from April 12-15.