Instead, they’re still wondering what it will take to finally top Milwaukee.
The Pirates’ losing streak against the Brewers is up to 14 and their skid in Milwaukee is 17, a pair of increasingly pesky slumps they’ll hope to extinguish in Wednesday afternoon’s series finale at Miller Park.
Pittsburgh (11-9) came to Milwaukee on Monday having won five of six, and at 11-7 was off to its best start since winning 12 of its first 18 games in 2002.
As usual, though, the Pirates forgot how to win as soon as they found the Brewers (10-10) in the opposing dugout. Milwaukee scored five runs in the eighth inning on its way to a 10-5 win on Monday, then rallied from four down against starter Paul Maholm for a 6-5 victory Tuesday.
“Sooner or later the baseball gods are going to catch up with you,” Pittsburgh manager John Russell said.
The Pirates came into this series with a 2.97 ERA that was the best in baseball, but that number has risen to 3.52 after letting the Brewers erupt for 16 earned runs in two games.
Pittsburgh may have the right pitcher going in Wednesday’s finale as it looks for its first win at Miller Park since May 3, 2007. Ian Snell (1-2, 4.50 ERA) is 4-1 with a 2.38 ERA in five career starts against the Brewers, though he faced them only once last season.
Snell has been prone to giving up home runs - he’s allowed four in 22 innings this season - and he’s let two of Milwaukee’s biggest power threats take him deep. Prince Fielder is 7-for-15 (.467) with a homer off Snell while Ryan Braun is 3-for-8 (.375) with a home run and four RBIs.
The right-hander will need to have better control than he had Friday at San Diego. Snell gave up six hits and five walks - allowing three runs - over five innings as the Pirates lost 4-3 in 11 innings.
“The walks were killers, and pitch location was terrible,” Snell told the team’s official Web site. “But I battled and kept the team in the game and that’s what matters.”
One other bat that Snell will want to be wary of belongs to starter Yovani Gallardo (2-1, 3.71), who’s already hit a three-run homer this season.
He’s been pretty effective on the mound as well. Gallardo pitched six scoreless innings on April 18 at New York, then delivered the finest start of his career his last time out. He pitched his first complete game Friday at Houston, allowing five hits and striking out seven in a 5-2 victory.
“He was in the low 100s in pitch count,” manager Ken Macha said. “Using all his pitches like he did, maybe gives him an idea that he wants to go out there and pitch complete games, managing his pitches like he did tonight.”
Gallardo is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three career starts against Pittsburgh, striking out 21 in 17 innings.
First baseman Adam LaRoche, hitting .367 with two homers and eight RBIs in his last eight games, is 5-of-9 with a homer against Gallardo.
The Brewers right-hander, though, won’t have to worry about facing Nate McLouth. Pittsburgh’s All-Star center fielder has missed the team’s last five games with a strained oblique muscle and is still a few days away from returning.