The Milwaukee Brewers made a valiant run over the last month and a half to compete for a playoff spot, but they ultimately fell short of returning to the postseason.
One day after having those hopes dashed, Milwaukee begins its final series of the season when it hosts the San Diego Padres on Monday night.
The Brewers have dropped six of their last nine games, including Sunday's 7-0 loss to Houston that officially eliminated them from playoff contention. Despite being 12 games under .500 on Aug. 19, Milwaukee (81-78) guaranteed at least a .500 season by going 27-12 since while becoming part of the postseason discussion with its surge.
"It was amazing, the run that we went on to get into contention," said reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun, who has a career-high and NL-best 41 homers. "I think that we're all proud of that. Ultimately, we're disappointed we didn't end up back in the postseason, but it certainly wasn't for a lack of effort."
The defending Central champion Brewers were shut out Sunday for the first time since Aug. 25 and mustered only four hits.
"For us to come out and get shut out, that was probably the last thing that I thought would happen," manager Ron Roenicke said. "It's hard right now. To play as well as we did to get back in it, this was a very disappointing series."
Milwaukee looks to begin its final series on a positive note with help from Shaun Marcum, who is coming off his first victory since beating San Diego on June 8.
Marcum (6-4, 3.74 ERA) allowed one run and struck out seven in six innings of Wednesday's 8-1 win at Cincinnati after going 0-1 with a 4.58 ERA over his previous seven outings.
He missed more than two months in that stretch with right elbow tightness.
"Vintage Shaun Marcum," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "He made pitches in big situations, got some strikeouts in big situations. It was very impressive."
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.51 ERA in four career starts versus the Padres, who blew a three-run lead over the final two innings of Sunday's 7-5 loss to San Francisco.
San Diego (75-84) led 5-2 heading into the eighth, but the Giants scored twice that inning and three times in the final frame to hand the Padres their fourth loss in five games.
"Obviously, you would've liked to win that one today and go out (at home) on a high note," said Chase Headley, who hit his 31st homer. "But, that's going to happen. It's part of it."
Headley is hitting .409 in six games against the Brewers this season for San Diego, which will send Clayton Richard to the mound as he seeks a new career high for victories.
Richard (14-13, 3.91), though, didn't fare well in his previous attempt, giving up six runs and a season worst-tying 10 hits in 3 2-3 innings of Wednesday's 8-2 loss to the Dodgers.
The left-hander went 5-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his previous six starts.
"That was a tough one," Richard told the team's official website. "You hate putting your team in that type of hole. It was a rough day."
Richard is 2-1 with a 4.15 ERA in five lifetime starts versus the Brewers, who have won seven of the last 10 home meetings with the Padres.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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