The Brewers have a lot to be happy about with the first half of their season.
They have the best record in the National League, four players are heading to next week's All-Star Game, and they've held the lead in their division virtually the entire season.
But that lead continues to shrink, as the Brewers lost their sixth game in seven tries Monday in the series opener against the Phillies. Their loss paired with the Cardinals' win against the Pirates on Monday, reduced Milwaukee's central division cushion to four games. The Brewers have gone cold as the Pirates and Reds have heated up, and the division's defending champion, the Cardinals, remain a threat to overthrow the Crew.
The good news for the Brewers is they end the first half with a homestand, which started Monday and concludes with three more games against the Phillies and three against St. Louis. The Brewers are hoping they can regain form and add a little more breathing room before the time off.
"I think it's going to be hard to really extend your lead out, just because the way these teams are talented," catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "The Cardinals and Reds have our number, and the Pirates are hanging around too, they're pretty hot right now. It's one of those things we've got to keep on plugging along and we've got to win as much as you can."
The Brewers will turn to Wily Peralta to even the series with Philadelphia -- which won for just the second time in 11 games on Monday. Peralta, a righty, got a win in all five starts he made in June, and took a no decision in his lone July start -- giving up four runs on nine hits in six innings to the Blue Jays last Wednesday.
Kyle Kendrick gets the nod for the Phillies, and the right-hander is coming off one of his stronger outings of 2014. Kendrick gave up two runs in seven innings and struck out four against just one walk against the Marlins last Thursday in a game the Phillies came back to win, 5-4.
Phillies: Lee won't be back until after All-Star break
Phillies starter Cliff Lee had his rehab start with Class A Clearwater cut short due to rain Sunday, and the left-hander won't be rejoining the Phillies rotation until after the All-Star break.
"We'll wait two days and he'll throw 60-65 pitches for Clearwater on Wednesday and then if he gets through that, we'll go to the next step which is probably one more rehab -- I hope -- and then hopefully ready to go," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
Lee has been on the disabled list since May 19 with a strained left elbow and was able to throw just two innings on 24 pitches before Mother Nature intervened Sunday. The veteran is 4-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 10 starts this season.
The 35-year-old has one year remaining on his five-year, $120 million contract.
Brewers: Gomez hoping to be asked to Home Run Derby
Carlos Gomez is heading to his second consecutive All-Star Game and will be making his first start in the game. But he also wants a piece of Monday night's action.
"It's something I've been dreaming about," Gomez said about participating in the Home Run Derby. "It would be really exciting and fun to do it. I don't know [if] I'm going to do it. The only thing I know is I can hit the ball really far."
Gomez will find out his fate soon, though, as National League captain Troy Tulowitzki will announce his team Tuesday night. Gomez has 13 homers this season and 81 in his career. And Gomez joked he wouldn't be worried about tuning up for the event, the Brewers center fielder said he practices daily.
"I go the Home Run Derby every day," Gomez quipped. "That's what I do for [batting practice] every day, even in the cage. I don't think it's a big change for me."
• Marco Estrada gave up his Major League leading 27th home run Monday. Chase Utley hit a two-run shot against the righty in the first inning.
• Jean Segura had two hits Monday, which matched the total the Brewers shortstop had in his previous eight games.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.