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Preview: Pirates at Brewers

GAME: Pittsburgh Pirates (79-50) at Milwaukee Brewers (55-75)
DATE/TIME: Tuesday, September 01 – 8:10 PM EST
WHERE: Miller Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
LINE: -158, 146 TOTAL: 7.5

The first order of business the Pittsburgh Pirates face as they hit the homestretch of the 2015 regular season is to improve their record against National League Central foes and they’ll get right to work when they visit the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday to begin a three-game series. Pittsburgh trailed first-place St. Louis by 4 1/2 games entering Monday, but appears a cinch to earn one of the NL wild card spots despite going 21-29 in the division, including 6-6 versus Milwaukee.

“It’s just one of those things,” Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer told reporters as the Pirates (79-50) begin a stretch of 17 consecutive games against NL Central teams and play 26 of their final 33 versus the division. “Everybody knows everybody pretty well. … ” Pittsburgh, which concluded a 13-4 stretch against non-NL Central teams with a 5-0 loss to Colorado on Sunday, has won seven of its last eight road contests – outscoring opponents 42-21 and posting a 2.22 ERA during that span. The Brewers (55-75) began their six-game homestand by taking two of three from Cincinnati over the weekend and shift into spoiler mode with 20 of their 32 remaining contests against St. Louis (seven), Pittsburgh (seven) and the Chicago Cubs (six). The Pirates’ Gerrit Cole tries to win his 16th game of the season and opposes Jimmy Nelson, who is 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA in four starts versus the Pirates – all in 2015.

TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, ROOT (Pittsburgh), FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates RH Gerrit Cole (15-7, 2.44 ERA) vs. Brewers RH Jimmy Nelson (10-10, 3.81)

Cole allowed one run and five hits in 7 1/3 innings of a 2-1 victory at Miami on Thursday. The 24-year-old Californian went 0-3 with a 3.60 ERA in his previous five turns as the Pirates could only muster 14 runs during that span, but prevailed in Cole’s two no-decisions. Cole is 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA in six starts versus Milwaukee after allowing two runs (one earned) in six innings of a 5-2 victory April 19 and has dominated Ryan Braun (0-for-8).

Nelson yielded five runs and a career-high eight walks in 3 1/3 innings of a 6-2 loss at Cleveland on Wednesday to snap a seven-start unbeaten streak in which he was 4-0 with a 2.15 ERA. “As far as things I can control, that was the worst game I’ve had in a long time, which stinks,” the 26-year-old Oregonian told reporters.
Nelson, who pitched at least five innings in his previous 21 starts, recorded 136 strikeouts against 60 walks while permitting 141 hits in 158 1/3 innings this season.

WALK-OFFS

1. Pittsburgh OF Gregory Polanco batted .330 with three home runs, 11 RBIs, 13 runs scored, four doubles and three triples in 112 August at-bats.

2. Brewers C Jonathan Lucroy is 14-for-31 with three home runs, 10 RBIs, nine runs and four doubles during an eight-game hitting streak.

3. The Pirates were outscored 18-7 while getting swept by Milwaukee in a three-game series at Miller Park coming out of the All-Star break.

PREDICTION: Pirates 3, Brewers 2