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MIL@STL: Peralta tosses 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball

Sole possession of first place in the National League Central will be on the line for the Brewers on Thursday afternoon, when they complete a three-game series with the Giants.

Milwaukee maintains a one-game lead over St. Louis after both teams lost Wednesday night. But a Cardinals win and Brewers loss Thursday would deadlock the teams atop the division. Milwaukee has had at least a share of first place since the fourth game of the season (April 4).

Before Wednesday's loss, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he'd prefer his team to be protecting a lead rather than chasing the leaders.

"If we were still pulling away like we were earlier, I probably wouldn't feel that way, but when you're kind of hanging on, not playing that well and you're seeing teams play well behind you, then it starts to make a difference," Roenicke said.

Roenicke dismissed the notion of pressure wearing on a team that's spent four full months of the season in first place.

"I don't think so. I think it helps them to still have a good feeling even though we've had a couple stretches we haven't played well and we're still in first place. I want to get back to playing that kind of ball where we keep slowly gaining," Roenicke said.

Wily Peralta draws the assignment of attempting to keep Milwaukee alone in first place.

Peralta holds a 9-1 record in his last 11 starts -- although the Brewers' offense deserves a lion's share of credit, as Peralta's ERA sits at 4.33 during that span.

He claimed his 13th win of the season -- tied for the most in the Majors -- when Milwaukee clipped the Cardinals, 7-4, Friday. Peralta allowed two runs -- his fourth straight start allowing two or fewer runs -- in 6 2/3 innings.

San Francisco counters with Jake Peavy, who makes his third start since joining the Giants on July 26 in a trade with the Red Sox.

Peavy had an interesting second start with his new team Saturday. The right-hander took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Mets, but he surrendered four runs on four hits in that frame and took the loss.

"I have to make better pitches," said Peavy after losing his 11th straight decision. "I know I could have done more."

Brewers: Lucroy at first base
Roenicke knows All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy must receive the occasional respite from being behind the plate. He also knows the team needs his bat in the lineup, and that's precisely why Lucroy played first base Wednesday.

"Can't take Luc out of the lineup with his bat," Roenicke said. "It does [help] physically. Mentally, sometimes, it does too, because of all the things he does calling the game back there. I think today's a good game to do it. We talked about doing it once the next series too. We may give Luc just a full day off the next series."

It marked the eighth start at first for Lucroy, who's hitting .305 with 37 doubles, the second most in MLB. He finished 1-for-5 in the Brewers' 7-4 loss Wednesday.

Giants: Pagan set for return
San Francisco is expected to bolster its outfield with the return of Angel Pagan on Thursday.

Pagan has missed the past 45 games with a lower back strain, but after rehab stints at Triple-A Fresno on Monday and Tuesday, he was scheduled to join the team late Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

The center fielder has posted a solid .307/.356/.411 slash line in 262 plate appearances this season.

Worth noting
• Carlos Gomez has homered in the first two games of the series.

• After a 3-for-5 night Wednesday, Pablo Sandoval has a seven-game hitting streak. He's hitting .414 over that stretch with two home runs and three doubles. Both homers came in the series with the Brewers.

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