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ARI@STL: Saunders one-hits Cards through five innings

The Brewers have been inconsistent of late, fighting to pair strong pitching performances with offensive contributions, and struggling to keep opposing bats in check, having allowed a National League-leading 92 runs in the month of July.

The D-backs haven't exactly been piling on the runs, though, but have been playing well enough to remain in contention in the NL West.

Both teams are right in the thick of things, eyeing a division championship at season's end and fighting out a four-game series in Arizona that continues on Wednesday, as Joe Saunders and Chris Narveson are set to take the mound.

"As good as things can look today, it can look just as bad tomorrow," said D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, with his squad 4 1/2 games in back of the Giants entering Wednesday. "And I just encourage them to just play hard and let's control our own destiny. And when we get to the end, let's be confident we'll be where we want to be."

Despite often finding himself in trouble during the early innings, Saunders hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a start since June 10.

"We've been playing good and I got to keep it going," Saunders said. "Control what you can control. Don't worry about things you can't control and all of the other stuff will fall into place. I know it's kind of cliché but it's true: You have to go one pitch at a time, one at-bat at a time.

"We can't control what the Giants and Rockies are doing, we just have to go out and perform."

While the 29-year-old Narveson has flashed solid strikeout numbers this season, his back-to-back quality starts the last two times out mark the first time since May he's accomplished that feat.

But perhaps the key for the Brewers, as manager Ron Roenicke pointed out, is production from the bottom of the lineup. Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt owns the lowest on-base percentage of all NL hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title -- though he did smack a pair of homers Tuesday. Third baseman Casey McGehee has moved down in the order, entering Tuesday on pace for 63 RBIs -- 41 fewer than last season. Even further -- bench player Craig Counsell was hitless in his last 33 at-bats after grounding out on Tuesday.

Midseason acquisition Josh Wilson has started to get more playing time, but Roenicke has not given up on Betancourt and McGehee.

"We talk about it after the games a lot," Roenicke said. "I go in and ask the coaches about what they think for tomorrow. Then I wake up and think about it a little more. Then I think about it more when I get to the ballpark and come up with [a lineup].

"Other guys have to pick it up. I'm still hoping [the bottom of the order] comes through and adds on."

Brewers: Plan in place for Braun
Ryan Braun was back in the lineup Tuesday, three days after leaving a game in Colorado with stiffness in his left hamstring and calf. He was in the game long enough to smack a two-run homer, though he left in the bottom of the fifth inning and was replaced by Carlos Gomez.

It's all part of the Brewers' plan to keep Braun's leg healthy.

"We're trying to get him back to where we don't have any setbacks," Roenicke said. "We have a plan for him. I don't really want to say what that is, but there is a plan for what we're going to do with him. If we put him out there for nine innings every single game we've got a chance to set him back. We really don't want to do that."

D-backs: Duke to the bullpen
Zach Duke had made just one relief appearance in his entire Major League career entering Tuesday, that coming in 2007 while he was with with the Pirates. But with the recent release of Aaron Heilman and the callup of Barry Enright to fill out the rotation, Duke is ready to accept a new role.

"My job is to get guys out when I have the opportunity to get them out," the D-backs left-hander said. "I'm just going to try to help this team win games any way that I can."

Duke entered Tuesday's game and allowed three runs in two-plus innings after Enright allowed six over the first three frames.

Worth noting
• Brandon Allen, called up to the D-backs on Friday when Juan Miranda was outrighted to Triple-A Reno, homered again Tuesday, marking the second time he's cleared the wall in as many starts this season.

• For the first time since the All-Star break, Ryan Roberts went hitless in a game that he started, going 0-for-4 in Tuesday's 11-3 loss. "I love his eagerness, his desire, determination and the way he plays," Gibson said before the game.

• The Brewers lead the NL with 111 home runs. The D-backs are second with 108.

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