First-place Brewers face Pirates, hope to continue surge

First-place Brewers face Pirates, hope to continue surge

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For the Milwaukee Brewers, the road to maintaining a semi-comfortable lead in the National League Central will go through Pittsburgh, and the Pirates have been hot lately.

The Brewers and host Pirates will open a three-game series on Monday evening.

After a 4-2 loss Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee (76-60) is 3 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Chicago Cubs in the division. It certainly would behoove the Brewers to win their series against Pittsburgh, one of the also-rans in the division.

While they missed a chance Sunday to reach 18 games over .500 for the first time this year, the Brewers have won 11 of their past 14 games. Milwaukee also is one victory away from its 2,000th win since the club moved to the National League in 1998.

After losing four of five games, meanwhile, Pittsburgh (63-74) put together a 5-1 road trip, ending with Sunday’s 6-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

On their trip through Missouri, the Pirates swept three games from the Kansas City Royals and won two of three against the Cardinals, with Sunday’s loss a back-and-forth battle.

“Five-and-one road trip, we played all the way down to the ninth inning (Sunday),” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “We played well.”

Those two opponents, however, are among the handful beneath Pittsburgh in the standings. Milwaukee is a different team. And it won’t get easier for the Pirates as they try to set a tone for the future — they next will travel to Atlanta for a weekend series.

The Braves (90-46) have the best record in the majors.

“We’ve got to continue doing what we’ve been doing — play together and keep moving forward together,” Pittsburgh infielder Liover Peguero said.

Milwaukee is 7-3 this year against the Pirates, although the teams split a four-game set in their most recent series, in early August in Milwaukee.

For the series opener on Monday, Milwaukee right-hander Corbin Burnes (9-7, 3.55 ERA) is scheduled to start. Pittsburgh, in turn, has not named a projected starter for any of the three games.

Burnes is coming off a tough-luck loss Tuesday, when he allowed one run and eight hits in seven innings, with seven strikeouts and two walks, but he couldn’t match Justin Steele in a pitchers’ duel that ended with a 1-0 win for the Cubs.

“When we needed to, we made pitches and got out of big innings,” Burnes said. “A couple times (we) had some big momentum shifts to give us a chance, and we just couldn’t come up with the big hit.”

Burnes has gone seven consecutive starts without a win, going 0-2 since he pitched eight scoreless, two-hit innings July 20 in a win against Philadelphia.

Against the Pirates, Burnes is 7-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 22 career games (10 starts). That includes going 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in two starts this season.

The Pirates have been announcing starters nearly on the fly and leaning heavily on using openers, with only Mitch Keller and Johan Oviedo working truly as starters lately. While Keller could pitch later in the series vs. the Brewers, Oviedo just pitched Sunday.

—Field Level Media

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.