The Milwaukee Brewers have turned things around at home after a slow start, but they haven't enjoyed any recent visits from the Chicago Cubs.
Milwaukee will try to win its fourth straight Friday night when it opens a three-game series against the Cubs, who send Carlos Zambrano to the mound looking to win his seventh straight decision at Miller Park.
The Brewers (3-4) were expected to contend in the NL Central, but opened the season with four straight losses.
However, Milwaukee has moved within a game of .500 after closing a four-game set against Atlanta with a 4-2 win Thursday. Nyjer Morgan scored the go-ahead run in the second while Shaun Marcum overcame some early struggles to pitch six effective innings.
"Things can sure change in a hurry and hopefully this gets us rolling," first-year Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
Improved play against Chicago could help the Brewers realize their playoff dreams. The Cubs went 6-3 in Milwaukee last season and have won nine of the last 13 there.
However, it won't be easy for the Brewers against Zambrano (0-0, 4.50 ERA). The right-hander is 6-0 with a 1.97 ERA in his last seven starts at Miller Park, including a no-hitter in 2008 against the Astros in a game relocated there because of a hurricane in Houston.
"I'm a big believer in history repeating itself," Chicago manager Mike Quade told the Cubs' official website. "I love going to Milwaukee and playing there or playing them here. It's a nice rivalry. ... I'm always excited to play those guys, and hopefully 'Z' will set the tone and it'll be good."
Despite Zambrano's success, the Brewers' Prince Fielder is hitting .341 with five doubles, two home runs and 14 walks in 41 at_bats against him. Fielder went 4 for 7 with four RBIs in the final two games against the Braves, raising his average from .176 to .292.
Zambrano, who's had a history of cramps, said he's feeling fine after leaving with them in the seventh inning against Pittsburgh on Saturday. He gave up three runs in six innings of the 5-3 victory.
A successful and healthy Zambrano is particularly important after news broke Wednesday that starters Randy Wells (right forearm strain) and Andrew Cashner (strain in right rotator cuff) would be headed to the 15-day disabled list.
This contest begins a nine-game road trip for Chicago (3-3), and includes stops in Houston and Colorado. The Cubs lost the finale of a three-game set to Arizona 6-4 Wednesday after dropping two of three to Pittsburgh last week.
"There was a lot of good to take out of what I saw on this homestand,' Quade said. ``I would have liked to have taken all that good stuff and been 5-1 or 4-2, but that's OK.'
Randy Wolf (0-1, 13.50), who opposed Zambrano in the no-hitter, will take the mound for the Brewers.
Making his season debut against the Reds on Sunday, Wolf allowed up six runs and 10 hits - including two home runs - in four innings of a 12-3 loss.
The left-hander lost both starts against the Cubs last season, but pitched well on Sept. 11, giving up one run and four hits in eight innings of a 1-0 defeat.
The Associated Press News Service
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