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WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUNDUP: Brewers at Washington to start the second half of the season

A two-and-a-half month chase to the playoffs begins tonight for the Milwaukee Brewers and three other close contenders in the National League Central.  The Brewers open a weekend series at Washington, which is tied with Atlanta for the East Division lead.  The Brewers still lead their division despite losing eleven of their last 13 games before the All-Star break.  The Saint Louis Cardinals are just a game back -- Cincinnati one-and-a-half back -- and fourth-place Pittsburgh three-and-a-half behind.  Catcher Jonathan Lucroy says it will be a "dog-fight" for the rest of the year, in what he believes is the best division in the Majors.  General manager Doug Melvin said he asked his coaching staff if the Brewers were a bad team, based on their last 12 games -- or if they were just playing badly.  He said the clear consensus was that they were just playing badly at that stretch.  September will be really interesting if the four-team race stays as tight as it is.  That's because Milwaukee will play 26 of its final 30 regular season games against teams in the N-L Central.  Right-hander Kyle Lohse will start for Milwaukee tonight against Nationals' right-hander Stephen Strasburg.


The Brewers canceled a voluntary workout yesterday, because the turf at Miller Park was still being changed over to a baseball mode.  That was after Wednesday night's pro soccer match in which Chivas of Mexico and Swansea City of the English Premier League played to a 1-1 tie.  Shortstop Jean Segura is back with the Brewers, after returning from the Dominican Republic where his nine-month-old son unexpectedly died a week ago.  Manager Ron Roenicke said Segura sounded good -- but he wants to have another meeting today before deciding if he's really ready to play.  If he's not, Elian Herrera will play at short.  Milwaukee's other back-up at short -- Jeff Bianchi -- was put on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right elbow.  Also, the Brewers re-acquired utility infielder Irving Falu, after San Diego had briefly claimed him off waivers.


Two Brewers' pitchers made brief appearances in this week's Triple-"A" All-Star Game.  Mike Fiers threw one-and-a-third perfect innings, striking out three for the Pacific Coast League in its 7-to-3 loss to the International League All-Stars in Durham North Carolina.  Donovan Hand -- who, like Fiers, had an extended run with Milwaukee last season -- closed out the Triple-"A" All-Star contest.  Hand secured the final two outs, while giving up one hit. 


Jordan Niebrugge of Mequon will not win a second straight U-S Amateur Public Links tournament title.  The 20-year-old defending champion was defeated yesterday in the Round-of-16.  He lost to 18-year-old Doug Ghim of suburban Chicago in 23 holes at Sand Creek Station in Newton Kansas.  Niebrugge bogeyed the final hole while Ghim made par.  Niebrugge came back from four-down after seven holes to send the match beyond regulation.  Ghim moves on to face John Oda of Hawaii in the quarter-finals this morning.  Earlier yesterday, Niebrugge advanced by eliminating Easton Paxton of Wyoming 4-and-2.  Charlie Danielson of Osceola failed to make the Round-of-16, after falling to Joshua Baskins of Redding California 2-and-1.


Wisconsin's top graduating high school seniors will play one more football game tomorrow.  The state Football Coaches Association will put on a pair of All-Star games at U-W Oshkosh.  Departing standouts from W-I-A-A divisions Four-through-Seven will play at noon.  The larger schools in the Top-three divisions will have a 5 p-m kickoff.  Josh Fizel of Eau Claire North will coach the North Division squad in the large school contest, while John Galewski of South Milwaukee coaches the All-Stars from southern Wisconsin.  In the small school game, Matt Smith of Prescott coaches the North team, while the South is led by Rodney Wedig of Walworth Big Foot.