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WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUND-UP: Brewers look to add to NL Central lead

MILWAUKEE - The Milwaukee Brewers will try to gain some more ground in the National League Central Division tonight, when they host the Cincinnati Reds.  

With a victory last night, the Brewers are guaranteed to stay ahead of the fourth-place Reds in the standings.  Cincy is now three-and-a-half games behind first-place Milwaukee, with Saint Louis a half-game back in second.  The Cardinals host Tampa Bay this evening.  The Brewers have either held or shared first-place in the Central at the end of every day since April 5th.  

Right-hander Jimmy Nelson will make his third career start tonight, when the Milwaukee Brewers host Cincinnati.  The 25-year-old Nelson was tagged for six earned runs in four-and-a-third innings of his last start, a home loss to Saint Louis a week-and-a-half ago.  He's 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA.  Veteran right-hander Homer Bailey is scheduled to start for the Reds.  He'll play his first game since July 10th, when he strained his right knee in a start against the Chicago Cubs.  Bailey received treatment during the All-Star break, and he's had a couple of bullpen sessions to help get him ready.  Bailey is 8-5 with a 4.21 ERA.  The Reds will try to break a four-game losing streak, after falling to the Crew by three runs last evening.  


Ryan Braun has a nine-game hitting streak.  But ESPN says the Milwaukee right-fielder is not nearly the same hitter he was in past seasons.  Senior researcher Justin Havens says 46-percent of Braun's hits have been driven to the opposite field this season, way up from 31-to-33 percent the previous two years.  He ranks 146th of 163 batters in the percentage of hits that are pulled to left field -- just under 31-percent.  As a result, the balls hit by Braun are traveling an average of 17-feet less this year than last.  Braun has always been known to chase low and outside pitches when he's slumping -- and this year, Havens said Braun has chased 39-percent of pitches, one of the highest rates in baseball.  Havens said he wouldn't speculate why -- but it's clear that Braun is not the hitter he's been in the past.  After his drug suspension from a year ago, Braun has missed games this season with a thumb injury that's been bugging him since last year -- plus back spasms.  Even with all that, ESPN's Buster Olney says Braun is on track for a good season.  He's on a pace for 63 extra-base hits -- but only 19 homers, down from his 2012 total of 41.


Brewers' international prospect Gilbert Lara attended his first Major League game at Miller Park last night.  The 16-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic wore Number-14 as he took batting practice.  The Brewers gave Lara a bonus of $3.1 million dollars -- the most by far for an international player -- and team officials believe he'll be worth it.  General manager Doug Melvin said Lara already has what he calls an "impact bat."  The GM said he correctly called line drives to right field, and he hit balls into the second deck.  Because he's just 16, Lara cannot play in the Dominican Summer League until next season -- but Melvin says he might be advanced enough to skip that level of play.  The decision will come after team officials evaluate Lara in fall-and-winter instructional leagues.  


Some of the nation's top college baseball players will get together tonight in Mequon for the Northwoods League All-Star Game.  Former Brewers Robin Yount and Jim Gantner will be the honorary captains for the two divisional squads.  Twenty-one players from eight Wisconsin teams will dress -- including four from the host team, the Lakeshore Chinooks.  They'll be on the South Division squad along with six Madison Mallards and three La Crosse Loggers.  The Wisconsin Woodchucks will have two South All-Stars, along with Kenosha.  Wisconsin Rapids and Green Bay each have one.  Eau Claire will have two All-Stars on the North Division team.  A home run derby will precede the All-Star Game at Mequon's Kapco Park.


Tyler Marincov of the Beloit Snappers has been named the position player of the week in the Class-"A" Midwest League.  Marincov batted .400 last week, going 8-for-20 with three homers, a double, and a triple.  Marincov, a 22-year-old right fielder, is an eighth-round draft pick from a year ago.  He only hit .157 in June, and he raised his slugging percentage last week from .406 to .449.


The Class-"A" Midwest League is off tonight.  The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are getting a well-deserved rest, after beating Dayton 5-4 in 11 innings yesterday.  The Beloit Snappers are coming off a 7-3 loss to Bowling Green.  Wisconsin is tied for third in the Western Division at 16-14, three games in back of first-place Kane County.  Beloit remains last at 9-21, ten games off the pace.


Brett Favre says he's not afraid of getting booed whenever he returns to Green Bay to be honored by the Packers.  He tells ESPN that he's heard it's a concern of his -- and he insists it's not.  In a political poll last winter, more than half of the Wisconsin Packer fans surveyed said they've forgiven Favre for his un-retirements after leaving Green Bay in early 2008 -- and the two years he spent with the rival Minnesota Vikings while saying he wanted to "stick it" to Packers' GM Ted Thompson.  But that still leaves plenty of potential boo-birds.  Favre has been softening up the past couple years, as Green Bay president Mark Murphy has been talking with the 16-year Packer legend.  Favre is eligible for the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame in two years, and Murphy has said he'd like Favre's No. 4 retired by then.  Murphy has said it won't be retired this season, he's not ruling out an appearance by Favre at Lambeau.  


Alverno College of Milwaukee will induct two athletes into its relatively new Hall of Fame.  Soccer standouts Alexandria Brenner and Ellie LaFond will become the sixth-and-seventh athletes to be enshrined at the all-women's college.  Both graduated in 2011, and LaFond had the most career points in Alverno soccer history at that time with 123.  Brenner was third in that department with 76 points.  Also, 1997 Alverno graduate Sara Halpin Scarlato will be honored posthumously with the school's Ember Award.  Alverno's Hall of Fame has been in existence since 2010. The induction ceremony will take place October 4th during Alverno's homecoming weekend.