Improved pitching has provided a recent spark for the Milwaukee Brewers.
The same could be said of the Houston Astros, and in particular Jordan Lyles.
The Brewers look for another strong performance on the mound from an unlikely source, while Lyles attempts to continue his impressive stretch in the opener of this three-game set Tuesday night.
Milwaukee's starting pitchers compiled a 7.62 ERA during a recent 3-10 stretch, lasting beyond the sixth inning only twice. However, they've been superb since, posting a 2.26 ERA while the Brewers have won six of nine, including a 5-1 loss at Cincinnati on Sunday.
The recent effectiveness of the rotation has been a welcome surprise since slugger Ryan Braun is on the disabled list with a thumb injury.
"It's unbelievable, and it stems from the pitching," outfielder Logan Schafer told the team's official website. "It's been so great lately, and I think the entire team is feeding off it.
"There's that team confidence. It's a good feeling."
Alfredo Figaro (1-0, 3.47 ERA) certainly felt good about his last start, allowing three hits in seven scoreless innings while retiring 16 in a row at one point of Wednesday's 10-1 win at Miami. It was the right-hander's first victory since Sept, 26, 2009, with Detroit, and a vast improvement after he gave up eight runs in 10 1-3 innings over his previous two starts.
Figaro is scheduled to face the Astros (26-45) for the first time since June 27, 2009, when he was tagged for eight runs in six innings of an 8-1 defeat at Houston.
The Astros had a four-game winning streak end with Monday's 4-2 defeat to the Chicago White Sox, but strong pitching played a big role in their surge.
Houston owns the worst ERA in the majors at 4.73, but the staff has a 2.20 ERA over the past five games and has been getting outstanding work from Lyles (3-1, 3.48) for much longer than that.
The right-hander has pitched to a 1.67 ERA over his last six starts after compiling an 8.36 mark over his first three following his recall from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Despite his recent success, he has just a 2-0 record to show for it thanks in large part to being backed by an average of 2.9 runs.
The offense let him down again Wednesday, when Lyles limited Seattle to three hits over seven scoreless innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts. The Astros, though, scored all their runs in he ninth inning in a 6-1 victory.
"Even the times in which he got into trouble, you can see the look in his eyes and the patience and the poise of 'I'm going to make quality pitches to get out of this,'" manager Bo Porter said.
Lyles was excellent in his most recent meeting with the Brewers on Sept. 30, tossing a four-hitter in a 7-0 road win. He was 0-3 with a 5.54 ERA over his five prior meetings - four starts.
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