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Brewers look to stop skid vs. Pirates

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Jhoulys Chacin and the Milwaukee Brewers face the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

By Shelly Anderson, The Sports Xchange

A series sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers hardly seemed likely for the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this month.

During a five-game losing streak, the Pirates were outscored 51-15 and struggled in just about every area. Since then, however, Pittsburgh (47-49) has won seven of eight.

[post_ads]Pittsburgh's hot streak includes a five-game winning streak and, Saturday, a doubleheader sweep of the Brewers.

So, the Pirates can indeed go into the All-Star break with a five-game series sweep of Milwaukee with a win Sunday at PNC Park.

"We're playing really good baseball right now," said rookie right-hander Clay Holmes, who pitched six shutout innings in the second game Saturday for his first major league win, 6-2 over the Brewers.

Manager Clint Hurdle isn't shocked his club could put together this kind of streak after giving up 17 runs twice during the five-game skid.

"That's why a lot of people in the clubhouse don't overcook it," he said. "You keep playing. It's been fun to watch us surge back."

Milwaukee has lost a season-worst five straight games, seven of nine and has been knocked out of first place in the National League Central.

The Brewers seemingly are making moves every day.

Saturday, they reinstated left-hander Brent Suter from the disabled list -- he started and lost the second game -- and recalled right-hander Aaron Wilkerson from Triple-A Colorado Springs as their 26th man.

They also put right-hander and Friday's loser Junior Guerra (right forearm) and outfielder Eric Thames (right hamstring) on the 10-day DL and recalled infielder Nate Orf from Colorado Springs for the second time this season.

That made 23 player moves for Milwaukee in a stretch of seven days.

Manager Craig Counsell has been steadfast and upbeat. Even with a busy stretch, he said of his bullpen going into the three-game stretch in two games Saturday and Sunday, "We're in good shape."

Counsell also doesn't buy any fatigue angle, even with the doubleheader, travel that got the club into Pittsburgh at 4 a.m. Thursday and no days off since June 26.

He reasoned that there are too many games remaining to blame anything other than a poor stretch of play.

"It's not time to be tired," Counsell said.

The Pirates certainly aren't playing like a tired club. They are back within striking distance of .500 and, with a strong stretch coming out of the break could reinsert themselves into the wild-card conversation.

One new concern is catcher Francisco Cervelli, who just before the doubleheader was put on the seven-day concussion DL, for the second time this season.

In the series finale Sunday, Pittsburgh right-hander Joe Musgrove (3-3, 3.77 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Brewers righty Jhoulys Chacin (8-3, 3.78 ERA).

Musgrove will be facing Milwaukee for the first time in his career.

In his first season with Pittsburgh, Musgrove has dealt with injuries and inconsistency. He won his first two starts but is 1-4 with a 5.17 ERA in six ensuing starts.
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His last time out, Musgrove had a tough-luck start. He struck out nine, a career high, in five innings Tuesday, giving up two runs and five hits in five innings, in a 5-1 loss to Washington.

"That was probably the best stuff I had all season," said Musgrove, whose only glaring mistake was yielding a two-run homer to Anthony Rendon but whose pitch count (96) was hurt by the Nationals fouling off 30 pitches.

Chacin has been a stronghold for Milwaukee, which is 14-6 in his starts. He will be making his team-high 21st start.

Tuesday at Miami, he allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings of an 8-4 win.

In his career against the Pirates, Chacin is 2-4 with a 4.30 ERA in eight starts, including 0-1 with a 1.46 ERA in two starts this season.

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