The Pittsburgh Pirates are already assured of an 18th consecutive losing season and on pace to drop more than 100 games, but the club is showing some signs of improvement.
The trouble is they’re now hitting the road. To make matters worse, they’re going to Milwaukee.
Losers of 10 straight road games, the Pirates try to win three in a row for the first time in nearly two months in Friday night’s series opener against the Brewers at Miller Park, where they’ve struggled mightily.
Pittsburgh (43-84) arrives in Milwaukee after successive wins over a St. Louis team battling for a playoff spot. The Pirates, winners of three of four, had plated two runs or fewer in each of their previous seven.
“This is the quality of baseball we need to be playing on a daily basis,” Neil Walker(notes) said after Wednesday’s 5-2 victory. “How we played these last couple of days is what we’re striving for on a daily basis.”
Walker has driven in three runs in each of the last two games for Pittsburgh, which hasn’t won three in a row since June 30-July 2.
Trying to tack on another victory on the road might not be that easy.
Pittsburgh, a major league-worst 13-48 on the road, has dropped 34 of 38 away from PNC Park and been outscored 60-16 during a 10-game road skid.
The Pirates have had similar problems in Milwaukee, where they’re 3-27 since 2007. A 7-3 win at Miller Park on April 27 ended a 22-game losing streak there.
“It’s something we have to fight through,” manager John Russell told the Pirates’ official website. “This will be a good test for them. They’ve made a lot of progress. Going to Milwaukee, that’s a tough place to play. We haven’t played well there the last couple of years.”
Fielder, who hit his 26th home run in Thursday’s 7-1 loss to the Dodgers, is batting .327 with nine homers and 27 RBIs in his last 27 home games against Pittsburgh.
Braun is hitting .328 with five home runs, five doubles and 14 RBIs in 15 games against the Pirates this year, and batting .333 with eight homers and 21 RBIs in his last 22 in Milwaukee against them.
The Brewers (59-68), however, are suddenly having their own problems at Miller Park.
Milwaukee, 10-5 against Pittsburgh this year, matched a season low with only two hits Thursday in losing its fourth straight - all at home.
“You’re not going to win many games with two hits,” Brewers manager Ken Macha said.
After allowing one run and three hits in seven innings in a win over Florida on Aug. 16, McDonald permitted five runs, six hits and five walks in Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the Mets. The right-hander, acquired from the Dodgers on July 31, had walked four over 17 2-3 innings in his first three starts for Pittsburgh.
This will be McDonald’s first career start against the Brewers after pitching six scoreless innings in four relief outings against them last season.
The left-hander is 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in two starts against the Pirates this season.