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MIL@SF: Marcum fans five over seven strong frames

When one thinks about the supposed ironmen of baseball, Prince Fielder's name likely isn't on the tip of many tongues. However, it is Fielder who stands alone as the only big leaguer who has started every one of his club's games this season.

The slugging first baseman gained the distinction when Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez was scratched from his game on Tuesday with a tight hamstring. For Fielder, his durability requires some luck to avoid injury, but it is also a testament to his physical preparation.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke had considered giving Fielder a day off during the club's recent road trip, but ultimately deferred to his first baseman's wishes. The skipper said that as long as Fielder is staying mentally sharp, he sees little reason to sit him.

"Physically, I don't think he's tired. Mentally, I thought he was getting to the point where he was getting frustrated at what was going on and not getting hits," Roenicke said. "If I give him one day off or two days off this year, does it really make a difference? If we play 162 games and I give him off one or two, does that make him that much better of a player? ... That's really what it comes down to.

"I think he takes a lot of pride in knowing that every single day I don't have to go to him and say, 'Hey, Prince are you OK?' He's always OK. It's just a matter of me saying, 'Hey, 'P' maybe you could use a day off do you want one?' And we'll see where it goes."

On Thursday, it will be Shawn Marcum who takes the mound, knowing Fielder will be on the first-base bag behind him. Marcum (9-3, 3.35), who will make his first career start against the Cubs, is in search of his third consecutive victory. The right-hander has given up two earned runs on four hits, with one home run allowed in each of his last two starts. It is his third straight road start, but that is where Marcum has excelled this year. He is 5-2 with a 2.40 ERA away from Miller Park this year (4-1, 4.35 ERA at home).

To get the best of Marcum, Cubs skipper Mike Quade hopes his club will snap out of its recent offensive funk. The Cubs are hitting just .258 as a team since the All-Star break, and have scored just 36 runs in 12 games.

"We just keep working, and hope these guys in the middle can get hot and get us going," Quade said.

Randy Wells will oppose Marcum. Wells comes off arguably his best start of the season, when he allowed just one earned run on five hits over six innings in a victory over the Astros on July 23. It was not only the right-hander's first victory since April 4, but confirmed Quade's decision to stick with Wells, who sidestepped a tricky first inning for the win.

"For a second there, I thought, 'Oh, here we go again," Wells said following the outing. "But I just tried to stay calm and make pitches, and I was able to make some key pitches there and get some big outs."

Cubs: Soriano's trade stock slipping
• The Cubs have made overtures regarding Alfonso Soriano's availability prior to the Trade Deadline, but the push may be coming at the wrong time, as the left fielder is in the midst of his worst month of the season.

If general manager Jim Hendry is to find a trading partner, he will need to produce a hard sell on Soriano, who is hitting just .171 (12-for-70) in July, with one home run and eight RBIs. His batting average has slipped each of the last four months, and Soriano has homered just five times in his last 203 at-bats, after hitting 10 home runs in 93 April at-bats. Soriano is a career .271 hitter after the All-Star Game.

Brewers: Betancourt backing it up at the plate
• Yuniesky Betancourt hit just .219 through May 31. But since then, the shortstop's production has picked up significantly. In his last 73 games, Betancourt is hitting .287 (46-for-160), with four home runs and 19 RBIs. He is hitting .368 (14-for-38) in 11 games since the All-Star break, and .314 (33-for-105) since June 20.

Worth noting:
• John Axford has converted 26 consecutive saves, breaking the Brewers' franchise record previously held by Doug Jones. Jones set his streak from May 31 - Sept. 26, 1997. Axford is 53-for-58 in save opportunities since taking over the closer's role on May 23, 2010.

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