The Colorado Rockies depend on Troy Tulowitzki as much as the Milwaukee Brewers depend on reigning MVP Ryan Braun to provide a spark at the plate and in the field.
Both will look to snap out of slumps when Milwaukee hosts Colorado in the opener of a three-game set Friday night.
Tulowitzki hit 30 homers and drove in a career-high 105 runs while winning his second straight Gold Glove in 2011, but his recent struggles on defense have affected him mentally.
The star shortstop made six errors in 140 games last season, but he's already matched that total in 11 contests. Tulowitzki's defensive struggles have carried over to the plate, as he's gone 1 for 14 over his last four games.
"I'm taking the field and thinking about it. I never thought about defense. I just go out there and play, and if I make an error, I made an error," Tulowitzki told the team's official website. "But I wasn't worried about it. So, yeah, I think about it. It's in my head. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't in my head. I think about it because I care."
Manager Jim Tracy decided to sit Tulowitzki in an 8-4 win over San Diego on Wednesday, giving the slugger a much-needed day off.
"It ends up being a wonderful opportunity to give him a chance to step away from it for a couple of days," Tracy said.
Braun has slipped into his own funk after going 0 for 11 with five strikeouts in a three-game set with Los Angeles, including an 0-for-4 performance in a 4-3 loss Thursday after Milwaukee (6-7) took the first two games of the series.
Manager Ron Roenicke said Braun has been playing through an illness and isn't concerned about him.
"Braunie, we'll get him going soon," Roenicke said. "He's been playing a bit under the weather."
Braun is hitless in three at_bats against Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 5.63 ERA), who was pitching well before rain interrupted his last start.
Chacin allowed one run in four innings but didn't return after a two-hour delay in Colorado's 8-7 victory Saturday over Arizona. He gave up four runs and four hits while walking five over four innings in losing to San Francisco in his first start.
"His command was better, but it can still be better, because there were some 2-0 counts," Tracy said. "There were some walks."
The right-hander has walked eight in as many innings. Chacin walked only one, struck out five and allowed five runs in 6 1-3 innings while not earning a decision July 16 in his only start versus Milwaukee.
Shaun Marcum (1-1, 3.46) will face the Rockies (6-6) while seeking more run support than his previous outing.
The right-hander allowed two runs and three hits over seven innings but lost 2-1 to Atlanta on Saturday. Marcum will be making his first start this season at Miller Park, where he went 0-3 with a 5.84 ERA over his last six outings in 2011.
He battled shoulder problems for most of spring training, but he threw 105 pitches Saturday and said he believes the issues are behind him.
"My arm feels great," said Marcum, who is 2-1 with a 4.00 ERA in three starts versus Colorado. "I got up to 105 pitches, so my pitch count is no longer an issue."
The Brewers have won six of the last seven meetings at home.
The Associated Press News Service
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