The Milwaukee Brewers finished April atop the NL Central as baseball’s most surprising team. Now, they only have September to try and turn that strong start into a playoff berth.
Entering the final month of the regular season aiming for their first playoff appearance in 25 years, the Brewers look to inch closer in the NL Central race when they play the middle game of their series with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday night.
Milwaukee beat Pittsburgh 3-2 on Friday to pull within 1 1/2 games of the division-leading Chicago Cubs and remain one-half game ahead of third-place St. Louis. The Brewers (67-67), who were 16-9 after April, have 28 games left in their quest to reach the postseason for the first time since 1982, when they lost the World Series to the Cardinals in seven games.
Milwaukee has won two of three after a five-game skid and two of three at home after losing its previous five games at Miller Park, where they’re an NL-best 41-25
“We’ve got a month left - have to keep banging away, get on a roll,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said.
Dave Bush (10-9, 4.96 ERA) will take the mound for Milwaukee on Saturday. In his last start, the right-hander gave up four runs and six hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-4 loss to San Francisco on Sunday.
Bush faced Pittsburgh on May 3, allowing four runs and six hits in seven innings of Milwaukee’s 4-2 loss. He is 0-3 with a 5.85 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance in his career against the Pirates.
Pittsburgh, which has lost three straight, will counter with Shane Youman (3-4, 5.59), who returns to the rotation after four relief appearances.
The left-hander went 2-4 with a 5.18 ERA in seven starts this season before moving to the bullpen. He earned a win in a start against the Brewers on July 3, giving up two runs and eight hits in six innings as the Pirates won 6-2.
Pittsburgh has scored just six runs during its skid, which follows a stretch in which it won nine of 11.
A bright spot for the Pirates on Friday, though, was Adam LaRoche’s solo home run, which gave them 45 in August to set a club high for a single month. Their previous high in a month this season was 25, which was set in June.
LaRoche has joined Jason Bay as the only Pittsburgh players to reach 20 home runs this season. LaRoche is batting .441 (15-for-34) with four home runs and three doubles in 11 games against the Brewers this season.
Pittsburgh is expected to take a look at some younger players with rosters allowed to expand Saturday. Pirates manager Jim Tracy said they will likely add first baseman Steven Pearce.
Pearce hit .334 with 14 home runs, 27 doubles and 72 RBIs in 81 games for Double-A Altoona before being promoted to Indianapolis, where he hit .331 in 33 games.