Suddenly, it seems a trip to their least favorite venue is helping to turn around their disappointing start.
The Brewers, riding a nine-game road losing streak before they traveled to Pittsburgh, will try to pull off their first-ever three-game sweep at PNC Park on Thursday afternoon.
Milwaukee (22-24) hadn’t won on the road since May 1, and was in the midst of a five-game slide overall when it arrived in Pittsburgh earlier this week. That road skid didn’t seem likely to end against the Pirates (21-25), a team the Brewers had gone 20-42 against on the road since 2001.
“Huge. Beyond huge,” left fielder Ryan Braun said of the role Parra and Sheets have played. “Coming off that last series, we were far from where we wanted to be, and now we have won the series. We want to come out and get the sweep, but this gets us headed in the right direction.”
Braun, who has four hits in the series, is hitting .404 (21-for-52) with eight homers and 14 RBIs in his last 12 games.
Despite its effort the past two games, Milwaukee’s pitching has been considerably better at home than on the road. In 20 games at Miller Park, the Brewers’ staff has a 3.82 ERA, and in 24 road games before their series with the Pirates, that ERA was 5.48.
Milwaukee will turn to a Pittsburgh native as it tries for its first three-game sweep there since July 2-4, 1999. Dave Bush (1-4, 6.05 ERA) hasn’t fared well regardless of where he’s pitched, but he’s been terrible on the road, where he’s 0-3 with a 7.03 ERA.
Bush’s latest outing was in Boston on Saturday, when he gave up five runs in six innings to the Red Sox. He didn’t receive a decision in the Brewers’ 7-6 loss.
“I wish I had an answer for why I haven’t pitched better,” Bush told the team’s official Web site.
He hasn’t fared well in his hometown either. He’s 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA in three career starts in Pittsburgh.
The Pirates had been playing well at their home park, but have dropped three straight there and six of nine overall.
Pittsburgh’s problem lately has been its inability to score runs. They Pirates have scored an average of 4.8 runs, which ranks among the top 10 in baseball, but they’ve scored just six in losing three in a row.
Part of the offensive problems can be attributed to Nate McLouth’s slip in production. The center fielder was one of baseball’s biggest surprises in April when he hit .342 with seven homers and 25 RBIs, but he’s batting just .196 over his last 12 games.
Pittsburgh will be relying on its most inconsistent starter as it tries avoid a sweep. Tom Gorzelanny (3-4, 6.64) gave up seven runs in six innings of a 7-4 loss to Chicago on Friday, the third time this season he’s allowed that many runs.
“He’s got the pitches,” manager John Russell told the team’s official Web site. “If his location is right, I think he can match up with anybody.”
Gorzelanny is 2-0 with a 3.13 ERA in five starts against Milwaukee.