The Pittsburgh Pirates figure to have a major say in whether the Milwaukee Brewers will break their 26-year postseason drought, as they have eight games left against the NL’s wild card leader down the stretch.
If those go like their first seven meetings have, the Brewers may need to plan on playing into October.
Milwaukee goes for its seventh win in eight contests against Pittsburgh when the teams continue their three-game set Saturday at Miller Park, where the Pirates have lost 10 straight.
The Brewers (74-55) have compiled a 33-24 record against the NL Central, and though they’re still 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading Chicago Cubs, they are 2 1/2 up on St. Louis for the wild card.
Milwaukee has eight combined games left against those two teams, but a team that may have just as much impact on its postseason hopes is Pittsburgh (57-71). The Brewers have won six of seven games against the Pirates, outscoring them 47-23, and will face them eight more times between now and late September.
Pittsburgh shortstop Jack Wilson has been impressed with what he’s seen from Milwaukee.
“They really believe in themselves and what they are out to accomplish,” Wilson said. “You have seen them grow into a very good team with the same players every year.”
The Brewers are off to a good start in their latest series with the Pirates. Milwaukee erased an early two-run deficit on Friday night and went on to win in a rout, using a six-run seventh en route to a 10-4 victory.
The big news for the Brewers was the return of All-Star Ryan Braun to the lineup. The left fielder is hitting .300 with 31 homers and 87 RBIs, all team-highs, but had sat out the last two games with a nagging, tight back.
“It’s good. It’s just nice to be back in there,” Braun said before going 2-for-5 with an RBI double in his return.
The Brewers have the best record (14-6) in the NL since the beginning of August, and that’s been primarily due to outstanding pitching. Milwaukee has a 2.70 ERA this month, far and away the best in the major leagues.
Jeff Suppan (8-7, 4.62 ERA) will be looking to win his fourth straight decision on Saturday. He was outstanding in his first three starts in August, going 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA, but had a less impressive outing on Sunday in Los Angeles. Suppan didn’t get a decision, allowing four runs and nine hits over six innings in the Brewers’ 7-5 loss to the Dodgers.
The Pirates were set to throw Jeff Karstens in the middle game of the series, but will instead push the right-hander back to Monday.
Taking Karstens’ spot will be Tom Gorzelanny (6-7, 6.57), who will be returning to the site of his last start in the majors. That was on July 4, when the left-hander was lit up by Milwaukee, surrendering eight runs - seven earned - and 11 hits over 4 2-3 innings in a 9-1 loss. Gorzelanny, who led Pittsburgh with 14 wins in 2007, has been a major disappointment in his second full season in the rotation, walking 61 in 87 2-3 innings.
He was sent to Triple-A Indianapolis the day after his disaster in Milwaukee, and vastly improved his control. Gorzelanny went 3-1 with a 2.06 ERA in seven starts, striking out 33 against only four walks.
“I’m not (in the minors) to feel sorry for myself,” he told the Pirates’ official Web site after his final start at Triple-A. “I’m here to get better and I’ve shown that I’m good enough.”
Braun is 5-for-11 (.455) with a homer, three RBIs and four walks lifetime against Gorzelanny.
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