Despite being well out of postseason contention, the Milwaukee Brewers are playing some of their best baseball of the season.
The Brewers look to match their longest winning streak of the year when they open a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park.
Fresh off a 2-4 road trip to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Milwaukee completed a surprising three-game sweep of the NL wild card-leading Phillies with Thursday’s 5-2 victory.
Milwaukee hasn’t won four straight since June 1-5, when it beat Los Angeles in the finale of a three-game series, swept a rain-shortened two-game set from the New York Mets and took the opener of a three-game interleague series with Boston.
Keith Ginter hit a go-ahead homer in the sixth inning Thursday, and Jason Conti hit a two-run homer in the eighth for the Brewers, who hadn’t swept a three-game series at home since May 19-21 against San Diego.
Conti, brought up from the minors on Tuesday, hit his first home run since July 31, 2002, when he was playing for Tampa Bay.
“I just got lucky with a two-strike swing,” said the right fielder, who also preserved a lead in the seventh when he threw out Bobby Abreu at the plate.
After taking two of three from the Brewers last weekend, Pittsburgh lost two of three to the St. Louis Cardinals, capped with Thursday’s 6-3 setback.
STANDINGS: Pirates - 4th place, 7 1/2 GB, NL Central. Brewers - 6th place, 15 1/2 GB, NL Central.
PIRATES PROBABLE STARTER: Kip Wells (5-6, 3.80 ERA). Wells is 0-2 with a 4.95 ERA over his last three starts, a stretch that followed a three-game winning streak. The 26-year-old right-hander didn’t receive a decision in the Pirates’ 6-4 win over the Brewers on Saturday, allowing three runs and eight hits over seven innings. He struck out seven and walked two. Wells is 5-3 with 3.52 ERA in 10 career starts against Milwaukee.
BREWERS PROBABLE STARTER: Wayne Franklin (8-10, 5.39 ERA). Franklin is 1-4 with a 7.94 ERA over his last five starts. The left-hander was reached for three runs and nine hits, including two homers, over six innings of Sunday’s 5-2 loss to the Pirates. Franklin is 2-1 with a 5.09 ERA in 12 career appearances against Pittsburgh, including three starts.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Pirates - Kendall, .318 avg. and 71 runs; Reggie Sanders, 29 HRs, 70 RBIs and 9 SBs. Brewers - Scott Podsednik, .307 avg.; Richie Sexson, 34 HRs, 92 RBIs and 77 runs; Podsednik and Eric Young, 25 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 7-7.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Pirates - Pittsburgh has at least 10 hits in nine of its last 13 games and has 30 homers in his last 14 contests. … OF Sanders is hitting .337 (31-for-92) over his last 24 games with nine doubles, 13 homers and 30 RBIs. … C Kendall struck out for the first time in 62 plate appearances Thursday, ending the longest current streak in the majors. Brewers - The Brewers have won four straight at home for the first time since winning five in a row from April 18-30, 2002. … 1B Sexson is batting .310 (27-87) with seven homers and 17 RBIs over his last 24 games. … Milwaukee is expected to activate 3B Wes Helms from the 15-day DL Friday and will probably send an outfielder to Triple-A Indianapolis. OF Conti was the likely candidate before Thursday’s game, but the Brewers haven’t made any official decisions.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pirates - 30-31 on the road; Brewers - 24-39 at home.
INJURIES: Pirates - RHP Salomon Torres (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Kris Benson (shoulder), 60-day DL; LHP Dave Williams (shoulder), 60-day DL; INF Pat Meares (hand), 60-day DL; INF Pokey Reese (thumb), 60-day DL. Brewers - 3B Helms (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Jayson Durocher (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Matt Ford (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Nick Neugebauer (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Ruben Quevedo (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Glendon Rusch (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Todd Ritchie (shoulder), 60-day DL.