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Hot-hitting Brewers face Blue Jays in short series

MILWAUKEE -- Despite a 13-6 loss Sunday at Wrigley Field, the Milwaukee Brewers are still atop the National League Central standings heading into the opener of a two-game interleague series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday night at Miller Park.

The Brewers (25-19) have been something of a pleasant surprise so far, riding a potent offense that ranked third in on-base-plus-slugging percentage, runs scored, homers and stolen bases through the Sunday games. That makes them a tough test for opposing pitchers.

Their own pitchers, though, have been another story. The Brewers' starting rotation ranked 21st in ERA, 26th in WHIP and 30th in walks per nine innings through the weekend.

"Offensively, we have been in a good groove all year," said Milwaukee third baseman Travis Shaw, who brings a career-high, 11-game hitting streak into the Tuesday game. "We have a lot of young, hungry guys.

"There's a lot of new faces in this clubhouse, myself included, and when a young team like this clicks at the same time, it can be a fun thing, and I think that's what we're in the middle of right now."

Right-hander Jimmy Nelson (2-2, 3.86 ERA) will try to keep that going when he takes the mound against the Blue Jays, looking to continue what has been an impressive month.

Nelson was 1-2 with a 5.34 ERA through his first five starts, but he is 1-0 with a 1.15 ERA in three outings since, holding batters to a .193 average while striking out 18 and walking only five in 15 2/3 innings.

He pitched six strong innings his last time out, holding the San Diego Padres to two runs while striking out eight in a 6-2 victory on May 16.

"I didn't throw any changeups because the curveball was so good," Nelson said after the outing. "I just kept going to it."

While the Brewers have surprised the baseball world, the Blue Jays have gotten off to a disappointing start. Toronto (19-26) comes to Milwaukee last in the American League East.

"We're not happy with where we're at," Toronto manager John Gibbons said, "but with everything we've been through, we're not upset about it, either. We dug ourselves a pretty good hole, but we think there's still time to get out of it. We could sure use some reinforcements."

The Blue Jays' Tuesday starter, Joe Biagini, threw one scoreless inning of relief when Milwaukee swept an early two-game set in Toronto, allowing a walk with two strikeouts in a 4-3 loss in April 11.

Biagini (1-2, 3.41 ERA) made 14 relief appearances earlier this season, posting a 3.38 ERA with one save, but since moving into the rotation on May 7, he has gone 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA in three starts.

The 26-year-old right-hander is still growing into the starting role and is expected to throw between 80-85 pitches against the Brewers.

"My fastball has been up a little bit early in games, every start that I've made," Biagini said. "I think something to be taken from that is to take a look at my pregame routine, see if I can make an adjustment, because I think what's different about the bullpen ... is that you throw before the game, your arm gets a chance to settle down, and as soon as you have to get ready to throw, you get up quickly, and then you're in the game.

"For me, the starting process of throwing long on the field, then going into the bullpen and throwing more pitches, I think there might be a need to make a slight adjustment to that."