In second place for the first time since the early days of the season and mired in one of their longest skids, the Milwaukee Brewers are desperate for any kind of boost they can get.
Having Yovani Gallardo starting at Wrigley Field may be just what they need.
The right-hander will try to win a sixth straight decision on Chicago's North Side and help the Brewers avoid a season high-tying seventh consecutive defeat in Tuesday night's matchup with the Cubs.
Until Monday, Milwaukee (73-64) had held at least a share of first place in the NL Central since April 4. The Brewers fell one game behind St. Louis with a 4-2 loss in the series opener in Chicago, and the Cardinals' 5-4 win over Pittsburgh.
"It's easy to get to the top," outfielder Khris Davis told MLB's official website. "It's harder staying there."
Welington Castillo drove in three runs for the Cubs (62-76) while Jorge Soler doubled twice in his Wrigley debut. Soler, 10 for 19 (.526) with seven RBIs, is the third player in the last 100 years to have at least one extra-base hit in each of his first five games, joining Will Middlebrooks (2012) and Enos Slaughter (1938).
No player has had at least one extra-base hit in each of his first six contests since at least 1914.
"I have been a little bit surprised," he said through a translator. "I expected it to go well, but not as well as it's gone so far."
Gallardo (8-7, 3.26 ERA) will be the next to try to slow down the Cubs' prospect, and would appear to have an advantageous setting. The veteran has appeared quite comfortable at the Friendly Confines, going 5-0 with a 1.77 ERA in his last seven starts there.
He's also 5-0 with a 1.47 ERA in his last eight road outings and has a 0.64 ERA in his last four away from Milwaukee. Gallardo tossed six scoreless innings Wednesday in San Diego, but the Brewers went 10 innings in a 3-2 loss.
He permitted one run in seven innings in his latest outing against Chicago on Aug. 11, a 3-1 road victory, and is 8-2 with a 2.33 ERA in his last 14 matchups. The Brewers, though, are 3-5 at Wrigley this season and have split their 14 overall games against the division's last-place club.
Milwaukee, which is averaging 2.2 runs and batting .193 during its losing streak, is trying to avoid matching a seven-game skid from July 6-12. The Brewers have lost each of their last six on the road, giving them their longest skid there since an 11-gamer July 20-Aug. 11, 2012.
"We're going through a bad week and we need to change it. We have it in us," manager Ron Roenicke said.
Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta (7-5, 2.88) will seek to bounce back from one of his worst starts this season with another solid performance against Milwaukee. He gave up six runs in four innings Thursday and let Cincinnati steal six bases in a 7-2 loss.
Arrieta was 1-1 with a 1.27 ERA in his prior three starts. He began that stretch by yielding two runs in 7 1-3 innings against Milwaukee on Aug. 11, but took a 3-1 defeat. He is 1-2 with a 2.84 ERA in four career starts versus the Brewers.
Arrieta is 3-1 with a 1.86 ERA in nine home starts and likely won't face Carlos Gomez (wrist). Anthony Rizzo's status is unknown for Chicago because of a stiff lower back.
Starlin Castro has more hits off Gallardo than any other pitcher, going 15 for 40 (.375), and Chris Coghlan is 6 for 9 versus him.