After dealing with poor starting pitching, key injuries and plenty of rumors regarding a possible Ryan Braun drug suspension, the Milwaukee Brewers are hoping their second half goes better than the first.
The improving Miami Marlins have the same goal.
Braun is expected to return Friday night when the NL's two worst teams return from the All-Star break in Milwaukee.
The Brewers (38-56) never imagined they'd be in the NL Central basement at this point - and ahead only of the Marlins (35-58) in the league standings - but it's understandable why they're there. Milwaukee's starters have a 4.86 ERA, Corey Hart (right knee) will not play this season and Braun has played once since June 9.
Braun returned from a stint on the disabled list on July 9, but he missed the next game with the sore right thumb that landed him on the DL and the four leading into the break due to a family medical issue. He has been removed from the bereavement list, but the 2011 NL MVP remains at the center of the Biogenesis scandal that could lead to a lengthy suspension either this season or next.
"It's tough to go to war when you don't have all your weapons," catcher Jonathan Lucroy told the Brewers' official website. "But the only thing we can do right now is keep working hard and keep playing hard."
The Marlins are taking the same approach after winning 19 of 33 heading into the break. They were denied a season-best fourth consecutive victory in Sunday's 5-2, 10-inning loss to Washington.
"From the way we started those first couple of months (13-32), I'm very pleased with the way these guys have continued to grind it out through a lot of adversity and some tough losses,'' manager Mike Redmond said.
"By no means are we satisfied with where we're at. We know we can get better. We'll go out there in the second half and hopefully have a great second half and finish strong.''
The Marlins' starting pitching has been strong - posting a 2.98 ERA over the last 26 games - and Friday's pitcher Jacob Turner (3-1, 2.33 ERA) has played a big role in that.
The young right-hander has yielded two runs or fewer in six of eight starts since being called up May 31, and threw seven innings of two-run ball in a 6-2 victory over Atlanta on July 10.
Turner faced Milwaukee for the first time June 11, giving up four runs in seven innings of a 5-4 home win. The Brewers won the other two games in that series by a combined 16-2.
After getting tagged for five runs and three homers in 6 1-3 innings of Saturday's 5-4 loss at Arizona, Kyle Lohse (5-7, 3.67) will get his first look at the Marlins in a Brewers uniform. The right hander won all three starts against Miami last season while with St. Louis, recording a 2.08 ERA.
Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton is 6 for 12 with two homers off Lohse, who's tied with Washington's Dan Haren for the most home runs allowed in the NL with 19.
Stanton has a homer with a team-best three RBIs against Milwaukee this season.
Lucroy went 5 for 11 with seven RBIs in that series in Miami. Carlos Gomez was 7 for 14 with three triples and five RBIs in those contests, and fellow Brewers All-Star Jean Segura finished 4 for 13 with a home run.