Pittsburgh Pirates look to bounce back against Milwaukee
By Jake Misener
After being shut out at the hands of two back-end starters in the Detroit Tigers’ staff on back-to-back nights, the Pittsburgh Pirates offense will look to get back on track at PNC Park in a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend.
Pittsburgh (3-6) was outscored by Detroit over the course of the three-game series eight-to-four and not a single Pirates batter has drawn a walk since last Saturday–a span of four-plus games. Milwaukee (2-7) was also on the wrong end of its last two games, which were both losses to the St. Louis Cardinals on the road.
These two teams met earlier in the season for a three-game set Milwaukee, in which the Pirates outscored the Brew Crew by a 16-to-10 margin. In the Saturday contest, Pittsburgh was shut-out, but the club responded by pounding the Brewers 10-2 in the series finale at Miller Park.
With both Pittsburgh and Milwaukee holding spots at the bottom of the National League Central, this series is big for both teams–although it’s admittedly early in the season. The offense has been dismal to this point for the Pirates, who are batting a league-worst .207 as a club.
In 2014, Pittsburgh was shut out on three or fewer hits twice. However, in just nine games this season, the Pirates have found themselves in the same situation three times, despite three homers early on for first baseman Pedro Alvarez.
For the opener on Friday night, Jimmy Nelson (1-0, 0.00) will take the ball for the Brewers, coming off a a seven-inning, nine-strikeout debut against the Pirates in early April. Left-hander Jeff Locke (1-0, 0.00) will oppose him, looking to pick up his second win on the young season.
Regardless of who is taking the ball for Milwaukee, the Pirates will have to find a way to generate some offense – whether it be via the long-ball or from playing some station-to-station ball. One thing is clear, though: the offense must pick it up after getting roughed up by Tigers pitching for most of its last series.
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Milwaukee ace Kyle Lohse (0-2, 11.17) takes the ball on Saturday night and will be opposed by Pittsburgh right-hander Vance Worley (0-1, 8.53), who lost out on a spot in the Pirates rotation this spring, but will see a spot start in the series.
The three-game set will conclude with right-hander Gerrit Cole (1-0, 3.27) taking the ball against someone very familiar with the NL Central in veteran Matt Garza (1-0, 3.27). Cole is coming off a stellar start his last time out and will surely be looking to build some momentum heading into the end of the month.
This series against the Brewers represents a shot for Pittsburgh to get back to the .500 mark and begin ascending the pecking order in the NL Central. However, dropping two-of-three or even getting swept if the offense doesn’t heat up could be a major thorn in the Bucs’ side to start the season.