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Pirates-Brewers Preview

AP - Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates have ended their run of 20 consecutive losing seasons - the longest in North American professional sports history.

The Pirates can next cement a winning record if they complete their first sweep at Miller Park in over nine years.

They'll send Francisco Liriano to the mound Wednesday night when they try to hand the Milwaukee Brewers a sixth straight loss.

Pittsburgh (81-57) ended two decades of frustration Tuesday when pinch-hitter Travis Snider hit a tiebreaking homer in the ninth inning of a 4-3 victory. The Pirates last finished with a non-losing record in 1992 when they won 96 games and a third straight NL East title.

"It was on our to-do list," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We'll move on from here. Our plans are continue to play and compete and go further."

Ironically, the Brewers (59-79) ended 12 straight losing seasons in 2005 by earning win No. 81 in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates boosted their NL Central lead to two games over St. Louis - where Pittsburgh will travel for a three-game weekend set after this contest.

The second decade of the Pirates' run of futility featured plenty of losses at Miller Park - including 34 of 36 between May 4, 2007-Aug. 14, 2011. Now Pittsburgh can complete its first sweep there since April 30-May 2, 2004.

Milwaukee owns baseball's second-worst record against left-handers at 12-26 as it gets ready to face Liriano (15-6, 2.57 ERA), tied for the major league lead among southpaws in victories.

Liriano is 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in two starts against the Brewers this year, and 8-3 with a 1.68 ERA in 11 outings against division opponents with all of the defeats coming versus Cincinnati.

Carlos Gomez is 7 for 14 against Liriano and Jean Segura 3 for 6.

Liriano was brilliant Friday as he yielded two hits and struck out six in eight innings in a 5-0 victory over the Cardinals.

If Liriano doesn't go the distance, Hurdle may give Jason Grilli his first action since July 22. The closer, who was out with a strained right forearm, was activated Tuesday off the disabled list.

The manager won't turn away yet from Mark Melancon, who earned his 11th save Tuesday while filling in for Grilli.

"Our eyes will tell us what to do with him after that, I believe ... his eyes and our eyes," said Hurdle about Grilli. "We eventually plan on transitioning him back to the closer role."

Andrew McCutchen is 4 for 8 with a solo homer in this series, and batting .420 during a 12-game hitting streak against Milwaukee.

The Brewers, who are in a tight race to avoid their first last-place finish since 2004, will give the ball to right-hander Wily Peralta (8-14, 4.51) - who tries to avoid falling into a tie for the major league lead in losses.

Peralta's 5.12 home ERA is one of baseball's worst marks. He has never faced Pittsburgh.

The Brewers are seeking to avoid losing seven straight at home for the first time since dropping eight in a row April 27-May 16, 2010.

Segura, 4 for 8 in this series, has an NL-high 39 steals as he tries to become the second Brewer to lead the league in that category along with Scott Podsednik, who had 70 in 2004.

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