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MILWAUKEE - Two of baseball's hottest teams meet at Wrigley Field this weekend, and the Brewers-Cubs series is enhanced because the home team is chasing the visitors.

A key National League Central series, before the All-Star break?

It could be, because the second-place Cubs start 7½ games behind the Brewers and meet them only once more, at the end of August in Chicago.

Of course, the Brewers are trying to downplay the importance of it all because they're the ones with the big lead.

"We're in first and they're in second and it's a division series, so I guess you can say (it's big),'' infielder Craig Counsell said. "But there are a lot of games left. One series isn't going to be an end-all for the season.''

The Brewers are aware the Cubs have won six straight games and that Wrigley Field can be a tough place for a visiting team, especially one from nearby Milwaukee.

"You know anything can happen in a Brewers-Cubs series,'' veteran outfielder Geoff Jenkins said. "I've seen it all. I hit that fly ball to Brant Brown. And it was off (the late) Rod Beck, too.''

This season has been unusual as well. The Cubs have won four of six games in Milwaukee, the Brewers two of three in Chicago.

For the opener of this series, the Brewers will start minor league prized prospect Yovani Gallardo, a 21-year-old second-round pick in 2004 who is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts.

Manager Ned Yost has extreme confidence in Gallardo, as he does in all the kids who comprise one of baseball's most surprising teams. But he also knows how fast things can change in this game.

"There are teams out there that can get hot,'' he said. "We're a week away from being in real trouble. You don't worry about it, you just keep playing your game every day.''

(c) 2007, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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