The Brewers are almost finished with a stretch in which they play 16 out of 19 games on the road, and they have held their own so far. But one big test remains.
Milwaukee will complete its latest trip in Texas, where it opens a two-game Interleague series against the red-hot Rangers on Tuesday night. The Rangers have won a season-best eight straight and 13 out of 14. They've turned a six-game deficit in the American League West into a one-game advantage over the A's.
The Brewers are only 24-36 away from Miller Park this season, but 4-3 on their current trip and have won eight of their previous 14 contests on the road.
Marco Estrada (4-4, 4.96 ERA) will take the hill for Milwaukee in his second start since coming off the disabled list. Estrada, who strained his left hamstring on June 3, returned on Wednesday in San Francisco and pitched five scoreless innings, with no walks and six strikeouts. He gave up a soft single in the first inning and retired the last 14 batters he faced.
"At first, I felt a little weird out there," Estrada said, "and as I kept going, I felt a little more comfortable. ... I tried not to show too many emotions out there, especially when I first got in. I tried to keep it relaxed. Obviously, I was very excited. It was great to be out there again. It's been a long time."
Estrada had struggled before his DL stint, producing a 5.32 ERA in 12 starts. Now healthy, he has a chance to re-establish himself in the Brewers' rotation, earning a spot with a 3.64 ERA last year.
"I'm not going to put it to him that way," manager Ron Roenicke said. "He knows what he needs to do. He knows where we were before he got hurt, and he wasn't throwing as well as he was last year. He's certainly out to prove something."
The Rangers will counter with Alexi Ogando (5-3, 3.28 ERA), who also came back from the DL recently. The righty has made four starts since his return and gone 1-1 with a 4.34 ERA, and he needed 97 pitches to get through five frames on Wednesday against the Angels, giving up two runs on four hits, with two walks and four strikeouts.
Ogando hasn't gone more than five innings since coming back, but manager Ron Washington is confident the endurance will come with time.
"As far as going deep in the game, that will happen," Washington said. "I'm not panicking if it doesn't. Last game, I saw him really let the ball go. His velocity was good and his breaking ball came into play because he had his fastball. His changeup came into play. We want all our pitchers to go deep. I know he's capable of doing better. He's going to start going deep in the games."
This will be only Ogando's fourth home start of the year, in his 15th game. He is 2-0 with a 2.76 ERA at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Brewers: Ramirez set for return
Third baseman Aramis Ramirez hasn't appeared in a game for the Brewers since July 6 because of a sprained left knee, but the veteran is expected to be activated from the disabled list and start on Tuesday. The knee problem has forced Ramirez into three DL stints this season, and he has hit .271 with five home runs, 26 RBIs and a .773 OPS in 54 games.
Despite his month-long absence, Ramirez elected not to go on a Minor League rehab assignment.
"I know he's been out a long time, and it's probably not ideal [to immediately reinstate Ramirez to the cleanup spot]," Roenicke said. "It's not ideal that he doesn't go out on rehab, either. But sometimes, that's what we do."
Roenicke said he plans to use Ramirez at designated hitter for one game in the Texas series and at third base in another, but he wouldn't specify in which order.
Rangers: Pierzynski tossed during Darvish's no-hit bid
Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski was ejected from Monday's 2-1 win against the Astros for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa.
Starter Yu Darvish had a perfect game with two outs in the sixth inning when his 2-2 pitch to Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar was called a ball. Thinking it was a strike, Pierzynski started toward the dugout.
When Darvish walked Villar on the next pitch, Pierzynski and Kulpa exchanged words and Kulpa threw the catcher out of the game. Geovany Soto came in for Texas to catch the rest of the finale.
Darvish lost his no-hitter in the eighth inning, but the Rangers won, 2-1.
Pierzynski went 2-for-3 in the game with an RBI before he was ejected.
• The teams split a two-game set in Milwaukee in May. This is the Brewers' first trip to Rangers Ballpark since 2007, when they lost two out of three.
• Neither starting pitcher has faced Tuesday's opponent.
• The Rangers will honor Washington before Tuesday's game. During the Rangers' road trip, he passed Bobby Valentine for the most wins by a manager in club history.