The Pittsburgh Pirates have much bigger goals than simply earning their 81st win, but for a franchise that has been associated with losing for a generation, reaching the break-even mark would be a welcoming sign.
The Pirates try to get 81 wins for the first time in 21 years Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
Pittsburgh (80-57) retook the NL Central lead, moving a game ahead of St. Louis with a 5-2 victory over the Brewers (59-78) on Monday. With the win, the Pirates surpassed last season's victory total and put the team on the verge of avoiding its first losing season since going 96-66 to win the NL East in 1992.
Pittsburgh is also seeking four straight wins at Miller Park for the first time since 2002. The Pirates had lost 44 of 51 games in Milwaukee from 2007-2012.
"It's huge to scrap one out here, because they've kind of had our number the last couple of years," Pittsburgh shortstop Clint Barmes said.
The Pirates turn to rookie Gerrit Cole (6-7, 3.80 ERA), who is 2-7 over his last 10 starts, despite a 3.84 ERA. He has been plagued by a lack of run support, as the Pirates have provided him 18 runs in those contests.
He was backed by zero runs in each of his last two starts - both losses - but Cole didn't help his cause Thursday, yielding four runs and 10 hits over a season-high 7 1-3 innings in a 4-0 decision to the Brewers.
"I was a little down, but (catcher John Buck) said to dwell on the fact that I pitched deep and helped save the bullpen,'' Cole said. "It's still not as good as a win, but it helped me feel like I did something positive.''
The right-hander was outpitched by Yovani Gallardo in that outing, and the two will oppose each other again Tuesday.
Gallardo (10-9, 4.39) allowed six hits in seven innings, improving to 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA over three starts since coming off the disabled list with a strained left hamstring. He said the two-plus weeks off gave him a chance to reflect and improve.
"Going on the DL took some of the pressure off,'' Gallardo said. "I wanted to fix everything all at once. Obviously, it's tough to do that when you're getting ready to compete every four or five days against big league hitters. I was able to tweak a few things and now I feel like I'm in the rhythm to be the type of pitcher I can be."
The right-hander is 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA in four starts against Pittsburgh this season. He has stymied several of the Pirates' leading hitters in Andrew McCutchen (2 for 10), Pedro Alvarez (1 for 8) and Gaby Sanchez (1 for 8).
He has yet to solve Buck this season, however. The former Mets catcher knocked three singles in three at-bats off Gallardo in his Pirates debut, and is 5 for 5 with a homer in 2013 matchups.
One of Pittsburgh's other recent acquisitions, Justin Morneau, is 4 for 8 all-time against Gallardo with two doubles.
Neil Walker, who iced Pittsburgh's win Monday with a three-run home run in the seventh, is 11 for his last 26 (.423) with a double, a triple and two homers.
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- Milwaukee Brewers
- Yovani Gallardo