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MIL@TB: Gallardo hurls gem to shut down Rays

The first-place Brewers gained a bit of separation from the teams trailing them in the National League Central on their last homestand after going 4-2 against the Giants and Dodgers. Milwaukee will hope to keep gaining ground in a four-game set at Wrigley Field.

Manager Ron Roenicke said he feels confident that his team won't have a drop-off in intensity despite taking on a last-place club.

"These guys realize: We have been really good, and we go into Chicago, and we get beat," Roenicke said. "There's no teams you can take lightly. For one, the pitching staffs are too good in baseball now. It's not just the team you're playing. If you face a good pitcher that night and he's on and you don't score, you're going to lose. We realize that if we're not on our game, it doesn't matter who we're playing, we're going to get beat."

Emerging ace Jake Arrieta will take the mound for Chicago, bringing with him a 3.00 ERA against the Brewers over three career starts. Arrieta is coming off his worst start of the season -- nine earned runs against the Rockies, which snapped a 10-game streak of consecutive quality starts.

"I know their starting staff has changed because they've lost some guys in trades," Roenicke said. "We know that, but I still look at the guys there. They're still capable of shutting you down. They'll stay focused. That's not to say we won't get in there and get beat, but they know what they need to do."

The Brewers will counter with Yovani Gallardo, who's also coming off a rough outing. Gallardo allowed four earned runs on nine hits over four innings against the Giants on Wednesday.

Gallardo is 8-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 17 career starts against the Cubs, including a 4-1 mark at Wrigley Field.

Brewers: Ramirez enters Cubs series on hot streak
Former Cub Aramis Ramirez had his 11-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday, but he's still hitting .458/.458/.604 over his last 12 games. Prior to the hot streak, he was batting .213/.247/.263 through the first 22 games of July.

"He's locked in, but this is the type of hitter he is," said Roenicke. "I don't think this is like a great streak for him. I think this is what he is. He's a guy that always drives in runs, or at least always has good at-bats with those guys out there. When he had that bad streak two weeks ago, that was really surprising that that lasted as long as it did."

Ramirez carries a .307/.373/.533 line at Wrigley Field, where he played from 2003-11. He's hit 127 of his 367 career homers there.

Cubs: North Siders downplay intensity
The Cubs are 4-5 against the first-place Brewers this year, and 17-30 against NL Central teams -- worst in the Majors against division foes.

"I think the whole rest of the season is going to be a pretty good test," manager Rick Renteria said. "We're playing some really good clubs, guys who are in the hunt."

Renteria downplayed any mounting intensity of the rivalry.

"We're going to play a lot of guys in our division. It's a great test," he said. "We just have to keep grinding and playing. We have to minimize the mistakes we make, mental and physical, and keep trying to get after it."

Worth noting
• The Cubs will play two teams currently in first place in August, starting with the Brewers. The Cubs will also play the Orioles.

• The Brewers have been in first place since April 5. Comments