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Preview: Brewers (62-78) at Pirates (83-56)
Venue: PNC Park
Date: September 11, 2015 7:05 PM EDT
The St. Louis Cardinals opened the door for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Milwaukee Brewers closed it.
The Brewers have stood in the way of the Pirates since the All-Star break, and they have three more chances to hinder Pittsburgh’s division chances as they continue a four-game series at PNC Park on Friday night.
The Pirates (83-56) had an opportunity to take a chunk out of St. Louis’ NL Central lead in the opener, but the Brewers (62-78) scored twice in the 13th inning for a 6-4 win Thursday.
The Cardinals have lost six of eight, but the Pirates have dropped seven of 11 and remain 4 1/2 games back. Pittsburgh still holds a 2 1/2-game lead over Chicago for the top wild card.
The Brewers have won seven straight over the Pirates, the previous six coming in Milwaukee. They carried the roll into Pittsburgh, where the Pirates are 46-22 and hold a 9-0-1 record in their last 10 series.
Logan Schafer drove in the winning run Thursday with a two-out single.
“We know we’re not close to being in the playoffs or anything like that, but we are playing spoiler,” Schafer told MLB’s official website.
Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton (8-7, 4.07 ERA) has lost his last three starts, and he’ll need to break that slide against a team that’s hit him well. Morton is 3-7 with a 4.27 ERA against the Brewers in 13 starts.
This year’s two outings have brought better results, though, as he went 7 1-3 innings in a 2-0 win June 10 and gave up four runs in six innings of a 4-1 loss July 17.
The right-hander is 5-2 with a 3.00 ERA in nine starts at PNC Park this year.
Morton may catch a break as Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy has sat out two straight after taking a foul tip off his jaw during Tuesday’s 6-4 loss in Miami, though Morton has held Lucroy to one hit in 16 at-bats.
Ryan Braun has the best numbers against Morton with a .348 average, a home run and three doubles in 23 at-bats. Milwaukee’s middle infield of Jean Segura and Scooter Gennett are a combined 6 for 35 against the veteran.
The Pirates have been the best matchup early in Milwaukee starter Jimmy Nelson’s career.
Nelson (11-11, 3.86) is 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA in five starts against Pittsburgh, all coming this season. The Pirates are the only team the right-hander has beaten more than once during his two-plus years in the majors.
Nelson held the Pirates to one run over seven innings in a 7-4 win Sept. 1, his fourth quality start against them. He is 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA in two starts in Pittsburgh.
‘Even in the minor leagues and college, there are just some teams you throw well against,’ Nelson said.
Andrew McCutchen has two doubles and a single in six at-bats against Nelson, while Pedro Alvarez is 0 for 10 with three strikeouts.
Nelson regressed in his last outing, a 6-3 loss in Cincinnati on Sunday. The Reds pounded him for nine hits – two homers – and five runs in five innings.
With his 22nd home run Thursday, McCutchen joined Barry Bonds as the only players in Pittsburgh history to have 150 homers and 150 stolen bases. Pirates left fielder Starling Marte was hit by a pitch in the eighth inning and left in the 10th with discomfort in his left shoulder.
“We don’t know,” manager Clint Hurdle told MLB’s official website about Marte’s status for Friday. “It was painful enough that he had to come out of the game, so we’ll just have to monitor him.”