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WISCONSIN SPORTS BRIEFS: Lohse to start for Brewers in series opener vs. Cubs

CHICAGO - Kyle Lohse will try to win his third straight decision tonight, when the Milwaukee Brewers open a four-game series against the Cubs in Chicago.

The veteran right-hander has allowed just one run in his last two starts, totaling 13 innings. That run was given up last Wednesday, when Lohse went seven innings in a 3-1 Milwaukee win over San Diego. Lohse is 7-7 overall this year, with a 3.37 ERA. Right-hander Jeff Samardzija will start for the Cubs. He’s 6-9 with a 3.94 ERA. He gave up four runs and a season-high five walks last Wednesday, when the Cubs went on to beat Arizona in 12 innings. Samardzija is 1-and-2 this month with a six-point-eight-five E-R-A in his last four starts. He walked 15 batters in those outings. The Brewers are in last place in the National League Central, while the Cubs are next-to-last. 


The Brewers are the only National League team to be 20 games back in their division, after losing two-of-three at Colorado this weekend. The Crew is falling further behind the next-to-last-place Chicago Cubs – whom they’ll play in a four-game series which begins tonight at Wrigley Field. The Cubs have recovered a bit. They’re 23-17 since June 10th. They’re just seven games below .500 – 14-and-a-half behind Central Division-leading Saint Louis – and five-and-a-half ahead of Milwaukee. Also, the Cubs have a three-game winning streak, despite trading starter Matt Garza and All-Star outfielder Alfonso Soriano. Chicago is coming off three straight victories over San Francisco, all by one run. The Brewers have lost five-of-their-last-seven. Milwaukee is 5-3 against the Cubs this season, but the Crew dropped its last two games to the Cubbies, which were played at Miller Park last month.


The Milwaukee Brewers announced the first event today in what they called a “Fans First” promotion designed to reward Miller Park customers for their loyalty. Owner Mark Attanasio said last week that the Brewers would find ways to give back to the 30,000 who’ve attended home games during what he called “a challenging season for all of us.” This morning, he said all fans attending Milwaukee’s 12 home games in August would get 10-dollar vouchers at the gate toward merchandise, concessions, and future game tickets for this season. The Brewers expect to spend about three-point-six million dollars on the vouchers, with attendance averaging over 30-thousand a game in August. The Brewers said the details of other events in the “Fans First” promotion will be announced in the next two months. Attanasio said the Brewers have received “tremendous support” during this losing season – in which Ryan Braun was suspended for violating baseball’s drug policy – and he said the team wants to do something meaningful to show its appreciation. 


In the Midwest League, the Beloit Snappers have dropped to four games behind first-place Cedar Rapids in the Western Division. That’s after the Snappers got crushed at home by Quad Cities 9-1 yesterday. The series continues tonight. Second-place Beloit is 20-15 for the second half, after earning a playoff spot by winning the first-half crown. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers open the new week in sixth place in the West, nine games behind Cedar Rapids, after edging Burlington 6-5 on Sunday. That series also resumes this evening near Appleton. There’s one matinee in the Midwest League today, with South Bend hosting West Michigan. Tonight, Clinton is at Cedar Rapids. Peoria entertains Kane County. Lake County plays at Great Lakes. Lansing entertains Bowling Green. And Fort Wayne is at Dayton. Bowling Green leads the Eastern Division by two games over Great Lakes. 


The Northwoods League is off today, while its top prospects will be placed into four teams that will play one game each in a double-header. The action starts at 4:05 this afternoon at Warner Park in Madison. The players are all in the midst of their college eligibility. The event is called the Northwoods League Big Dreams Showcase. Interdivisional play resumes tomorrow. The Green Bay Bullfrogs will finish a suspended home game against Willmar that was tied 8-8 going into the ninth inning.   


When he checked in at Training Camp, Green Bay Packers’ defensive end Datone Jones weighed 18 pounds more than when he auditioned at UCLA’s Pro Day in March. Jones, the Packers’ first-round draft choice, said he put on a lot of muscle since his spring audition. Coach Mike McCarthy said it’s clear that Jones came to camp in good shape – and Jones is very comfortable about the way he moves on the field. Jones has been part of the Packers’ Number-One defense – both in the base and “sub” arrangements – so far at Training Camp. It’s not certain yet how Jones will be used once the season begins. 


The Green Bay Packers are off today, thus giving a number of players a chance to heal a bit. Corner Tramon Williams left just before the end of yesterday’s Training Camp scrimmage, after one of his knees bothered him. Two receivers did not practice yesterday, after being hurt on Saturday – Kevin Dorsey and Charles Johnson. Coach Mike McCarthy says neither injury appears to be serious. Second-year corner James Nixon intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass during an extremely physical scrimmage. Nixon also ended the practice with solid coverage on receiver Jarrett Boykin, who managed to pull the ball down for a score after the Packers’ offense worked on its two-minute drill. Today’s off-day is required under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. It requires light practices for the first two days with full pads allowed on the third day, and an off-day after that. The Packers will return to the practice field tomorrow.