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WISCONSIN SPORTS BRIEFS: Brewers go for third straight road win tonight

PITTSBURGH - The Milwaukee Brewers won’t make the playoffs – but third baseman Aramis Ramirez says it feels like a playoff atmosphere when they face teams which are headed to the post-season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to have secured at least a Wild Card spot, and they’re just a game-and-a-half back for the National League Central Division lead. The Brewers won at Pittsburgh 7-6 last night, and the two teams will play again tonight. Milwaukee skipper Ron Roenicke does not like using the word “spoiler” to describe his team’s role. He says it’s not his goal to keep other teams out of the post-season – but rather, to play good baseball and not give away games to their opponents. The Pirates hope to get a boost, after trading yesterday for outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck from the New York Mets for cash and a prospect. Byrd led the Mets with 21 homers this year. The Brewers have won three-of-their-last-four, but they remain 19-and-a-half games back in fourth place in the Central. Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny starts for the Crew tonight against right-hander Charlie Morton – who’s 0-4 lifetime against Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Brewers will go for their third straight road victory. . Former Pirates’ left-hander Tom Gorzelanny will start for the Crew this evening against right-hander Charlie Morton. Gorzelanny has struggled since he joined the starting rotation a couple months ago. He’s 2-4 in eight starts with a 4.81 ERA – and he has given up 12 runs in eight-and-a-third innings in his last two outings. For the year, Gorzelanny is 3-5 with a 3.60 ERA. Morton has done much better lately, going 2-0 in his last four starts with an ERA of just over two-and-a-quarter. He gave up one run in seven-and-a-third innings in a win over San Francisco last Friday night. Morton is 5-3 on the season, with a 3.21 ERA. The Pirates have lost three straight, and they’re a game-and-a-half behind first-place Saint Louis in the National League Central. 

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The Brewers have assigned a half-dozen prospects to the Arizona Fall League. Three pitchers are among those who will play for the Surprise Saguaros – right-handers Taylor Jungmann, Kevin Shackelford, and David Goforth. The others are outfielder-and-first baseman Jason Rogers, catcher Adam Weisburger, and outfielder Mitch Haniger. 

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There’s a full schedule of games tonight in the Class-“A” Midwest League. Only the Western Division teams played yesterday. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers edged Kane County 8-7. The Rattlers will host Quad Cities tonight near Appleton. The Beloit Snappers will be at home against Burlington, after the Snappers out Clinton 2-0. Also tonight, Western Division-leading Cedar Rapids hosts Kane County. Clinton plays at Peoria. East leader Bowling Green is at South Bend. Lake County entertains Lansing. Dayton plays at Great Lakes. And Fort Wayne has a double-header at West Michigan.

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Mason Crosby is one step closer to keeping his kicking job with the Green Bay Packers. Former Portland State kicker Zach Ramirez was cut late yesterday, after he missed 10-of-his-final-13 field goal attempts at practice. Ramirez went 6-for-16 on the day. Coach Mike McCarthy said Ramirez struggled with his timing, in only his third day of competition for the Green Bay kicking spot. Crosby – who’s held the job for six years – is now the only candidate on the roster, but McCarthy says he might bring Giorgio Tavecchio back if necessary. Tavecchio was released on Monday, but the coach told him to stay by his phone. His release helped the Packers cut their roster to yesterday’s 75-man limit. More cuts will be made at the end of the week, to get the Packers to their regular season limit of 53 on Saturday. 

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Packers’ corner Tramon Williams practiced in full pads yesterday for the first time since late July, when he bruised a knee bone. He appeared to do okay – but corners coach Joe Whitt says the key is for Williams to have a full workload for three straight days without getting any swelling. Whitt says the Pro Bowl corner is mentally sharp – and the obstacles at this point are all physical. The 30-year-old Williams says he hopes to be ready for the Packers’ regular season opener a week from Sunday at San Francisco. The Packers will close out the pre-season tomorrow night at Kansas City. 

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It didn’t take long for Graham Harrell to find a new job. The Green Bay Packers officially cut the backup quarterback on Sunday. This morning, Fox Sports.com said Harrell has agreed to a contract with the New York Jets. He was not officially claimed off waivers – but the Jets reportedly want him after quarterback Mark Sanchez injured a shoulder in an exhibition last weekend against the New York Giants. The 28-year-old Harrell was the only backup to Aaron Rodgers last season, when he completed four regular season passes in mop-up duty. Veteran Vince Young appears to have emerged as Green Bay’s Number-two signal-caller for this season. Coach Mike McCarthy says he’ll make nothing official until after tomorrow night’s Packer pre-season finale at Kansas City.

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The University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team released its Big Ten schedule today. The Badgers have an especially tough schedule in February, when they’ll play four teams that went at least 12-6 in the conference last season. They’ll start with Ohio State on Feb. 1, against a Buckeye team that defeated the Badgers in last year’s Big Ten Tournament title game. Other February road games are at Illinois, Iowa, and Michigan – last season’s NCAA runner-up. Wisconsin’s February home contests are against Michigan State, Minnesota, and Indiana – the defending Big Ten regular season champion. Bo Ryan’s Badgers will open conference play on Jan. 2 at Northwestern. Wisconsin’s regular season opens November eighth against Saint John’s in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

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The University of Wisconsin men’s cross country team is ranked at No. 7  in a national preseason coaches’ poll. The Badgers placed second at the NCAA meet a year ago. They’ll try to replace three seniors who finished in the individual Top-15 at the nationals – Reed Connor, Maverick Darling, and Mohammed Ahmed. Wisconsin returns a pair of scorers from last year’s nationals – junior Alex Hatz and sixth-year senior Rob Finnerty. 

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The UW-Green Bay men’s basketball team is 2-0 on its three-game exhibition trip to the Bahamas. The Phoenix defeated the Mailboat Cybots 92-75 last night in Nassau. Keifer Sykes scored 19 of his 26 points in the second half for Green Bay. The Cybots were down by three at the half, but Green Bay opened the second half with an 11-2 run and pulled away from there. Green Bay will close out its trip tomorrow night with a game against the Real Deal Shockers. 

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Milwaukee’s Anthony Pettis will get a chance to win the Ultimate Fighting Championship light-weight title in his home town this weekend. Benson Henderson puts a seven-bout winning streak on the line, when he and the 26-year-old Pettis go for the title belt during the main event of UFC-164 at the Bradley Center. The 29-year-old Henderson and U-F-C fans have been looking forward to a rematch with Pettis ever since December of 2010, when Pettis pulled off a kick to Henderson’s face in the final round of their bout. Thirty-two months later, Henderson says he looks forward to erasing quote, “that Pettis stain on my soul.” The card will be shown on pay-per-view. 

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