MIL@STL: Lucroy picks Ellis off at first base

CINCINNATI -- When dissecting the goings-on of a struggling team, a baseball season really could be sectioned off into three categories.

1. It's early.

2. It's still early.

3. Is it too early to panic?

In the case of the head-scratching Arizona Diamondbacks, their start to this season remains a mystery.

They started off abysmally bad, losing 18 of their first 23 games, a .217 winning percentage. This is hard to grasp not because it's unprecedented -- after all, plenty of teams just aren't very good and have the record to show for it. But the D-backs are different. They weren't supposed to be that bad, and, mostly likely, as the season progresses, they won't be.

So, five weeks into the season, you could probably file the Diamondbacks under No. 2: It's still early.

That's why the Brewers, who entered play Sunday with the best record in baseball at 21-10, have no plans to let their guard down when they host Arizona for a three-game set beginning Monday. The Diamondbacks -- who, by the way, picked up the pace a little bit after their 5-18 start, winning six of their next 10 -- are unquestionably not this bad. And opponents know this.

"That's the great thing about the game of baseball," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "Any team can beat any other team. It's not always bigger, faster, stronger."

On paper, where the games are not played nor are they decided, the Brewers are the clear favorite. The ERAs of the Brewers' three probable starters are 5.00 [Matt Garza], 3.13 [Marco Estrada] and 2.04 [Wily Peralta]. The D-backs, on the other hand, are 5.79 [Mike Bolsinger], 3.77 [Josh Collmenter] and 6.03 [Bronson Arroyo].

Overall, Brewers pitchers have the third-lowest ERA in the National League at 3.01. The D-backs? The highest, with a 4.97 ERA.

But none of that gives the Brewers any reason to believe this series will be a cake walk. That's just not how a six-month season works when you're talking about baseball at the highest level.

"Guys are going to start off slow," Lucroy said. "They're going to have slow months. It's a long season. You never know what can happen. We can't take them lightly. We have to play them like we do everybody else."

Peralta, Wednesday's starter, expressed a similar sentiment.

"I just pitch, whoever I'm facing," he said. "I don't ever change my approach. If they're struggling, it's better, but I don't really think about it. You still have to go out there and make pitches. They have really, really good hitters. They're struggling, but one day, they can turn everything around."

Roenicke showing faith in slumping Aramis

MIL@CIN: Ramirez launches a solo home run

CINCINNATI -- Aramis Ramirez is mired in a pretty significant slump, but with manager Ron Roenicke hesitant to start tweaking the lineup, it's likely the third baseman will be given every opportunity to work out of what ails him while maintaining his spot in the middle of the Brewers' order.

In Ramirez's last 40 at-bats, he has two hits -- both solo homers.

Ramirez showed a couple of positive signs, however, during the Brewers' 6-2 loss on Saturday against the Reds. He homered convincingly off Johnny Cueto in the second inning and nearly did the same in the ninth off Sam LeCure, flying out at the warning track in the deepest point of center to end the game.

"That was nice," Roenicke said. "He needed that and we certainly need it. Hopefully, he gets it going. The last ball he hit, I thought he hit really well. It just wasn't carrying at that time."

On Sunday, Ramirez went 0-for-4 and grounded into two double plays during the Brewers' 4-3 extra-inning loss.

Last call

• While plenty is being written about Francisco Rodriguez and his resurgence as the Brewers' closer, none of this is news to Roenicke, who credits the right-hander's success to one simple element: K-Rod is just a really, really good pitcher.

"He's got everything working now," Roenicke said. "When he does, this is how he pitches. He has a very durable arm. His mind is where he wants to pitch every day. His mind isn't, 'I've pitched three games in a row and I'm tired.' The mental part of it is good. He turns the page really well. He has a bad one, and the next day, he comes out and you wouldn't know it."

Mark Reynolds hit his seventh homer of the season on Saturday in Cincinnati. His 192 homers since 2008 ranks fifth in the Majors.

• The Brewers are heading home to Miller Park, where they are 9-6 and 3-2 in series play.