Preview: Brewers at Twins

After missing the past three games with a sore back, Ryan Braun was placed on the disabled list Thursday and won’t be available when the Milwaukee Brewers open a three-game interleague series with the Minnesota Twins on Friday night at Target Field in Minneapolis.

Braun hasn’t played since Sunday when he left a 7-3 victory over the Rockies in the eighth inning. He was originally in manager Craig Counsell’s lineup Monday at Arizona, but was a late scratch for that game and hasn’t played since.

More Brewers coverage

Braun had surgery to repair a herniated disc after back problems plagued his 2015 season, but said the current issues were unrelated to that procedure.

“It’s not going to completely go away while I’m playing,” Braun said while the team was in Arizona. “You just have to try to manage it.”

Braun is off to a slow start in 2018. He is batting .222 with a .268 on-base percentage, and was batting .121 with a .167 OBP in May.

Milwaukee’s offense was off to a slow start as a whole but has showed signs of life since heading out on the road a week ago.

The Brewers took five of seven games during a week-long swing through Denver and Phoenix. They are one of three teams in the National League with 26 victories and are a half-game behind first-place Pittsburgh in the Central Division.

As has been the case for much of the season, Milwaukee’s pitching has done the heavy lifting during the recent hot streak, but the Brewers’ offense has improved lately.

The Brewers are averaging 5.6 runs over their last seven games — including a shutout loss to the Rockies and a 2-1 defeat at Arizona on Tuesday night.

“One (bad) game in each series,” third baseman Travis Shaw said. “Other than that, we’ve done well. We’ve won each series. That’s all you can ask for on the road. Guys were getting good swings today. If we’re hitting multiple homers, we’re going to score some runs.”

Shaw has had a big role in that breakout. He was mired in a 5-for-50 slump when the Brewers packed their bags and headed west May 10 but has three doubles and three home runs on the trip, raising his slugging percentage to .516 in the process.

“I told you guys a few days ago it’s still a work in progress,” Shaw said. “There are still a few things I want to clean up. But this road trip has been a step in the right direction, especially coming off that stretch I was on before that.

“Each day, I’m still trying to get consistent at the plate. But I can’t complain right now.”

The Twins got bad news Thursday, learning that catcher Jason Castro will miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery. He was originally expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks but the procedure revealed more damage than anticipated.

“Things did not go as well as hoped with the surgery,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “As can be the case from time to time, MRI imaging didn’t give us a clear picture of what was going on in there. The tear was more significant. Instead of a partial meniscectomy, they had to go ahead and fully repair that meniscus and keep what was left. They thought that was the best action as far as prolonging his career.”

The Twins send right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-1) to the mound for the series opener. Gibson gave up two runs on three hits and four walks against the Angels in his most recent outing Saturday. He has held opponents to seven earned runs over his last four starts, but he did not have a decision in any of those games while lowering his season ERA to 3.43.

His is 1-1 with 5.03 ERA in three career starts against Milwaukee, but he has not faced the Brewers since 2015.

Milwaukee answers with left-hander Brent Suter (2-3, 5.14 ERA). He has allowed six runs and 12 hits in his last two outings, spanning 9 2/3 innings.

He has faced the Twins only once in his career, and that came last season, when he started the game and gave up three runs on five hits and two walks in four innings, but did not get a decision.