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NYY@MIL: Lohse goes six strong innings vs. Yankees

As the National League Central-leading Brewers open their weekend set with the last-place Cubs on Friday at Wrigley Field, Milwaukee will turn to Kyle Lohse. The right-handed Lohse, who is 4-1 with a 2.75 ERA, has thrown quality starts in all but one of his appearances this year.

Lohse missed Chicago during the teams' lone prior series in April, but if his performance against the Cubs last season is any indication, it may be tough to earn a seventh consecutive quality start. His ERA against them in 2013 was 5.09, the highest against any team he faced more than once.

Lohse's career numbers against Chicago aren't any better -- 5-6 with a 5.15 ERA. But unless the luck of his counterpart, Jeff Samardzija, changes, it might not matter.

Samardzija, who is 0-3 despite a 1.45 ERA, is the first pitcher since at least 1900 to give up three runs or fewer in his first eight starts and not get a victory. His ERA is second in baseball to Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto.

"The wins thing to me is frustrating because in general it's a stat that we've all moved away from," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. "Unfortunately it's a big story because he's breaking records with his winless streak."

In 2012, Ryan Dempster was 0-3 in his first nine starts for the Cubs while compiling a 2.90 ERA. Six of those nine outings were quality starts. He finally got a win on June 5 that year, throwing seven shutout innings against the Brewers.

The run support problems have carried over to this season. On Monday, the Cubs scored 17 runs in a win against the Cardinals. They have scored 15 runs total in Samardzija's eight starts.

"The way he's pitched, I think he's been as good as anyone in the National League," Hoyer said. "It'll be nice one day if he didn't have his best stuff and people picked him up."

Travis Wood, who picked up the win on Monday, is well aware of the lopsided offense.

"I instantly came in here and gave Samardzija a hug and said, 'Sorry,'" Wood said.

Brewers: Hard to keep hot-hitting Weeks out of lineup
Although left-handed-hitting Scooter Gennett, batting a respectable .287, usually starts against right-hander pitchers, the recent offensive surge by Rickie Weeks is going to make it difficult to keep the veteran out of the lineup.

Weeks was 3-for-4 with a home run and double in the Brewers' 4-3 comeback victory over the Pirates on Thursday to extend his hitting streak to eight games. Since April 25, he is hitting .593 (16-for-27) with a home run and five RBIs, raising his season average to .365.

The Cubs are scheduled to start right-handers Edwin Jackson and Jake Arrieta in two of the games this weekend.

"We'll see as it goes on," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said following Thursday's win. "This next series, they bumped it back, so they've got two righties and then a lefty. So we'll look how the matchups are. Where it matches up well with some righties, as well as he's swinging, we'll get him in there."

Cubs: Young Castillo showing improved game calling
This is Wellington Castillo's second full season as the Cubs' regular catcher, and he's impressed rookie manager Rick Renteria.

"He's got a feel for what's going on," Renteria said. "He's starting to take a little more control. It's important that he does that."

What Renteria noticed was how Castillo would go to the mound to get the pitchers to slow down the pace of the game and give them a chance to regroup. Castillo is in charge of a young bullpen.

"They're young and don't have a lot of experience," Castillo said. "If they shake anything off, and I think it's the right pitch, I just shake my head, like, 'I got it, let's go. Just follow me, we'll be fine.' We throw the pitch and throw it with conviction and we get the out, and that's how trust comes."

Castillo would like to improve his batting average -- he's batting .248 after going 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter in Thursday's loss to the Cardinals -- but he's spending most of his time on the pitchers.

"I've been working really hard on game calling," Castillo said.

Worth noting
• This is the second series between the Cubs and the Brewers this season. Milwaukee took two of three at Miller Park over the last weekend of April.

• The Brewers are a perfect 8-0 this season when Martin Maldonado starts behind the plate. Maldonado, who slumped to .169 last season with four home runs, is hitting .333 this season with two homers.

• Milwaukee is an NL-best 12-5 on the road this season heading into this 10-game trip.

• Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez has converted 16 of 17 save chances this season, giving him 320 for his career, 16th on the all-time MLB list. Up next is Jose Mesa with 321 and Roberto Hernandez with 326.

• Starlin Castro is batting .311 (23-for-74) with six doubles, four homers and 11 RBIs in 18 games since moving to the cleanup spot in the Cubs' lineup.

• The Cubs' bullpen has the fewest save opportunities in baseball with nine.

• The Cubs' 13-26 record is their slowest start through 39 games since 2002, when they had the same record. Comments