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Brewers host Tigers with eye on bigger prize

By Andrew Wagner, The Sports Xchange
Zach Davies and the Milwaukee Brewers face the Detroit Tigers on Friday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
Zach Davies and the Milwaukee Brewers face the Detroit Tigers on Friday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

MILWAUKEE -- With a playoff berth already clinched, the Milwaukee Brewers return to Miller Park on Friday night still hoping to catch the Cubs and win the National League Central Division.

"We want another celebration this weekend," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We have a big weekend ahead of us, a huge weekend ahead of us. We've got work to do still."

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The Brewers wrap up the regular season with the Detroit Tigers (64-95), owners of a 26-51 road record this season.

On paper at least, it's a much easier weekend than what faces the Cubs, who will try to protect their one-game lead over Milwaukee during a three-game set at Wrigley Field against the Cardinals, who are still clinging to their own postseason hopes.

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It would be easy for the Brewers to look past the lowly Tigers, but center fielder Lorenzo Cain was confident that his team would be focused on the task at hand, especially if it meant avoiding a one-game, winner-take-all, wild-card game Tuesday night.

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"For me, it's all about winning the division," Cain said. "I don't really like playing winner-take-all-type games. Winning the division is our main focus. We understand the Cubs are a really good team and we have to play Detroit and get after it. We have to find a way to play consistent baseball, to score some runs, play some solid defense and do what we've been doing all year."

Milwaukee right-hander Zach Davies (2-7, 4.65 ERA) takes the mound Friday night for his fifth start since returning from a three-month stint on the disabled list. He's pitched well his first four times out, allowing two or fewer runs while throwing 66-88 pitches over four or five innings.

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Another short start appears likely Friday with 14 options in the bullpen thanks to expanded rosters.

"We do feel a strength is our depth of pitching," Counsell said. "So, if we can get another at-bat from a position player (as a pinch-hitter) and it costs us another inning from our starter, that's a pretty good trade-off, I think."

Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said earlier this month that his team was focused more on building for the future than it was playing a potential spoiler role, but he is looking forward to seeing them perform in what's certain to be a raucous setting at the end of an otherwise frustrating and disappointing season.

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"It's going to be an atmosphere," Gardenhire said after the Tigers fell to the Twins on Thursday night in Minnesota. "It's going to be loud, it's going to be a packed stadium. These guys are on a mission on the other side, so we better come and be ready to play. You want to see what these guys can do in that atmosphere. It's not going to be easy. It's a good baseball team and they're fighting for a lot right now."

Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann (7-8, 4.31 ERA) takes the ball for Detroit in the series opener. He allowed two runs and three hits while walking two and striking out five in seven innings, receiving a no-decision in a 5-4 victory over Kansas City on Saturday in his last start.

Zimmermann is 5-1 with a 4.08 ERA in seven career starts versus Milwaukee, but has not faced the Brewers since 2015. Davies has never faced Detroit.

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