The Milwaukee Brewers failed to record their second seven-game winning streak since the All-Star break at the conclusion of their road trip, but heading home should give them a great chance to string some more victories together.
That’s exactly what they’ve done against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
A major mismatch could be on tap in Milwaukee with this three-game set, which kicks off Friday night as the Brewers look to improve on baseball’s best home record with a 10th straight victory - and 32nd in 34 meetings - at Miller Park against the Pirates.
Milwaukee (67-51) has been fantastic at home all season, going a major league-best 41-15, and won eight of nine on its most recent homestand to grab a 3 1/2-game lead atop the NL Central.
The Brewers began their six-game trip a woeful 21-35 on the road, but they hardly looked helpless in Houston and St. Louis. Milwaukee won the first five games of the trip before dropping Thursday’s finale 5-2 to the Cardinals, and now come home with a four-game lead.
“I think we had a great road trip,” said Prince Fielder(notes), who didn’t have his usual protection of Ryan Braun(notes) in the lineup as the left fielder rested his occasionally troublesome left leg. “We had a great series here.”
The Brewers have to be happy to be back home for the next seven games - particularly considering their first opponent.
Trips to Miller Park have been more than a tough test for the Pirates (56-60) - they’ve generally meant three automatic losses. Pittsburgh is 2-31 in Milwaukee since May 4, 2007, with its pitchers sporting a 6.69 ERA, and has lost nine straight there dating to July 9, 2010.
Braun, who should be back Friday, is hitting .472 with five homers and a 1.568 OPS during the 9-0 home stretch versus the Pirates.
“They always seem to find a way to pull it out, even when we have a lead,” starter Jeff Karstens(notes) told the Pirates’ official website. “We’ve been in most of the ballgames, but the one big inning seems to get to us each time.”
Karstens held San Francisco to two runs over six innings Wednesday, but the story was Pittsburgh’s inconsistent offense, which had five hits with runners in scoring position in a 9-2 rout of the World Series champs.
The Pirates took two of three from the Giants after losing 10 straight, but manager Clint Hurdle says it’s too early to tell if his club has righted the ship.
“We’ll find out after the Friday night game, but we’re going in with some confidence,” Hurdle said. “We were able to put a foot down and win a series on the road.”
As if it didn’t have enough problems in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh has to deal with Zack Greinke(notes) (10-4, 4.21 ERA) in the series opener. The Brewers are 9-0 when Greinke starts at Miller Park, with the right-hander going 7-0 with a 3.49 ERA.
Greinke gave up five runs over five innings May 15 against the Pirates, but won 9-6.
Since his up-and-down first half, he’s made six consecutive quality starts after holding Houston to a run and four hits over seven innings Sunday in a 7-3 victory. Greinke says he’s felt “a lot better” since the All-Star break, and the results are certainly there. He’s 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA.
He’ll be opposed by Paul Maholm(notes) (6-12, 3.54), who has lost three straight and is coming off one of his worst outings of the season. The left-hander gave up seven runs and 10 hits over 6 2-3 innings Saturday in a 13-2 loss to San Diego.
Maholm is 0-3 with a 4.59 ERA in eight starts at Miller Park since 2007, but there’s one Brewer he’s always enjoyed facing. Fielder is 4 for 45 with 15 strikeouts versus Maholm.