Chicago starter Travis Wood will be looking for his fifth win in the month of May as the Cubs and Brewers begin a weekend set Friday in Milwaukee.
His lone rough outing this month came May 7, when he allowed eight runs in four innings against the White Sox. So far this season, Wood has six quality starts.
Wood's preparation entails considerable video review, but he always watches live game action to get ready. Mike Borzello, a Cubs staff assistant, spends time with Wood on the bench, studying the game.
"We'll talk during the game about things that we see, and not so much when I'm pitching but more along the lines of days I'm not pitching," Wood said. "We'll talk about the game -- there's always something to learn about the game."
His preparation hasn't changed over the years, and he feels he's pretty much the same pitcher as last year, when he went 9-12 with a 3.11 ERA and made the All-Star Game.
"If it wasn't for that one start [vs the White Sox], we'd be right there," he said.
Wood is different in one way, however.
"I'm probably a little smarter and that comes from the years and knowing the hitters," Wood said. "You get to learn the hitters and know their tendencies.
"You can watch all the video you want but until you actually see it and what they're trying to do against you, and you adjust from there."
Friday's game will officially bring the Brewers into the season's middle third. Milwaukee raced to an 18-6 start before cooling down in May. The Brewers enter Friday night's game 12-14 on the month and are holding a 2 1/2-game lead over St. Louis in the National League Central.
Marco Estrada (4-2, 3.98 ERA) takes the hill for the Brewers, looking to cut down on the long ball. Estrada, who allowed four homers in his previous outing, has given up a Major League-leading 16 this season.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke noted that injuries -- most notably to Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez -- have forced the team to shuffle its lineup.
"I don't think that's why, so much, we're struggling, but we know we have to be healthy," Roenicke said. "We're in a tough division. There are some teams that might play better than what they played before, and we're going to have to be ready for that. We're going to have to try to stay out in front of them instead of us always having to catch someone."
Center fielder Carlos Gomez, who made his first 42 starts batting leadoff, has batted cleanup the past six sames. Shortstop Jean Segura played seven straight at the top of the order, and Braun has moved from third to second in the order for his past five games.
Cubs: Hoping to improve Castillo's caught-stealing rate
Welington Castillo entered Wednesday ranked third among NL catchers in fielding percentage, but he's also tied for first in most stolen bases against, throwing out only five of 36 basestealers. There are other factors involved -- such as the timing of a pitcher's delivery -- but Cubs manager Rick Renteria said they're working with Castillo on improving his numbers.
"We've had some plays where runners should've been out and they weren't because we probably had a dropped ball or missed tag or something of that nature," Renteria said. "We have to take it all into consideration. Do I think he's throwing the ball well? Yes. Is he able to better his numbers over the long haul? Probably."
Brewers: Segura enjoying time as leading man
Roenicke borrowed a page from old friend Joe Maddon's playbook to spark one sputtering hitter.
The hitter is Segura, who entered Wednesday's start against the Orioles with 11 hits and a .414 on-base percentage in his first 30 plate appearances since a move to the leadoff spot. The stretch added 21 points to Segura's batting average, which stood at .273 entering Wednesday, and 20 points to his on-base percentage, which was .303.
"I think any time you put a guy in a different situation, you're looking for different things from him," Roenicke said. "Example: Sometimes, if a guy is slumping, Joe Maddon puts him in the leadoff spot. [Evan] Longoria was really struggling, and [Maddon] led him off and I think he got three hits right away and a homer."
• With a victory Friday, Wood would become only the fourth Cubs pitcher in the last 20 years to win five games in May. Carlos Silva and Sean Marshall both did it during the 2010 season, and Kevin Foster accomplished the feat in 1997.
• Chicago reliever Pedro Strop (left groin strain) is nearing a rehab assignment, Renteria said Wednesday.
• Francisco Rodriguez's next save will be the 322nd of his career, giving him sole possession of 15th place on baseball's all-time list.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.