Brewers-Braves Preview

Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell believes Jimmy Nelson discovered the key to his success last time out when he didn't allow an outfield fly ball after the third inning.

That's a trend the right-hander might be able to continue against a team that rarely hits fly balls over the wall.

Nelson will try to post consecutive wins for the first time in his career Sunday when the visiting Brewers try for a series split against the Atlanta Braves.

After allowing five home runs in dropping his previous two starts, Nelson (2-4, 3.73 ERA) earned his first win in seven outings - and just his fourth in 21 career starts - when he gave up one run and three hits over eight innings in Tuesday's 8-1 victory at Detroit.

The 25-year-old coaxed a season-high 13 groundouts against the Tigers after he had gotten a total of 24 over his previous four starts. He didn't allow a fly ball to the outfield in his final five innings.

"(Groundballs) started coming in bunches," Counsell told MLB's official website. "I think that's who Jimmy is going to be."

Nelson hopes to build on that performance after an up-and-down start. He had a 1.35 ERA through his first three outings before posting a 6.75 mark over the next four.

"He's got good stuff, he just has to put it together. We know how good he can be," third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. "It's just like I say, go out there and be consistent."

A former Braves fan while attending the University of Alabama and growing up in Niceville, Florida, Nelson should have a good chance to remain a ground-ball machine as he faces Atlanta (21-21) for the first time.

The Braves have one of the highest groundball-to-flyball ratios in the majors at 1.65. They're tied for last in the majors with 26 home runs after failing to hit one in the past six games and 12 of 14.

However, Atlanta enters with a chance to get above .500 for the first time since April 27 partly because of how well it does with runners in scoring position. The Braves are among the MLB leaders in that category with a .302 average after going 4 for 10 in Saturday's 3-2, 11-inning victory. They were 7 for 16 in those situations in Thursday's 10-1 series-opening win before going 0 for 3 in Friday's 11-0 defeat.

Cameron Maybin and Freddie Freeman each have three RBIs in the series, Nick Markakis has gone 5 for 11 with two doubles and Jace Peterson came through with the single that drove in Alberto Callaspo with the winning run Saturday.

"Probably one of the most fun times I've ever had playing baseball," Peterson said of the victory celebration.

Atlanta will try to claim its seventh win in nine games by giving the ball to Mike Foltynewicz (2-1, 5.32). He's looking to recover from his first defeat after yielding five runs over five innings in Tuesday's 5-3 home loss to Tampa Bay.

"It's only my fourth start and I'm just still trying to learn things," he said. "I'm trying to make my mechanics clean and all that stuff, working on the slider still. But other than that, it's just baby steps and it's coming along good now."

The right-hander will have to contend with Ryan Braun in his first look at the Brewers (16-28). Braun is batting .367 with five home runs and 16 RBIs over his last nine games and has driven in at least one in five straight.

Carlos Gomez contributed two doubles Saturday and is hitting .375 over his last six games. Ramirez, however, is still seeking his first hit in the series (0 for 9) and is 3 for 25 over his past seven.


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