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News » Pirates-Brewers Preview 2009-04-27

Pirates-Brewers Preview 2009-04-27

Pirates-Brewers Preview 2009-04-27
The Pittsburgh Pirates are off to their best start in seven years and remain optimistic they'll be able to maintain their current pace. To keep it up, however, they'll likely need to improve their play in Milwaukee.

The Pirates look to avoid their 16th straight loss at Miller Park on Monday night when they open a three-game series against the NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers.

Pittsburgh (11-7) has opened 2009 with its best 18-game start since 2002, when it was 12-6 at this point. While the Pirates feel they're capable of snapping their run of 16 straight losing seasons, continued struggles in Milwaukee won't help their cause.

The Pirates have lost 15 in a row at Miller Park since a 4-2 victory on May 3, 2007. Since the start of 2007, they're 1-17 in Milwaukee.

Pittsburgh didn't fare much better against Milwaukee at home last season, losing five of six meetings en route to a 1-14 overall record versus the Brewers in 2008.

Adam LaRoche could be a key factor to Pittsburgh changing its fortunes against Milwaukee. The first baseman is batting .333 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 11 wins, compared to .190 with one homer and two RBIs in six losses.

LaRoche had two homers, four RBIs and three runs scored in an 8-3 victory at San Diego on Sunday. Robinson Diaz and Brian Bixler, replacements for injured starters Ryan Doumit and Jack Wilson, each added two RBIs.

"Guys realize where we are at losing (players)," manager John Russell said. "We had some guys step up. The bench has done a great job and guys are picking each other up."

The Brewers (8-10) hadn't won consecutive games until a four-game winning streak this week, but that run was snapped with a 3-2 loss at Houston on Sunday. Ryan Braun, who was 13-for-19 (.684) with three homers and eight RBIs over his previous five games, was 0-for-4.

Manager Ken Macha is anxious to return to Miller Park, where his club dropped four of six to start the season after going 49-32 there last year.

"The team played really well at home last year, but we had a tough (homestand) to start the season this year," Macha said. "It will be nice to go home."

Macha has to feel especially confident with Braden Looper (2-0, 2.12 ERA) taking the mound. Looper has been Milwaukee's most consistent starter, having allowed only four runs in 17 innings over his first three starts, all Brewers victories.

The right-hander held Philadelphia to five hits in six scoreless innings of a 3-1 victory Wednesday.

"He's very intense about his preparation and he's focused on what he has to do," Macha said. "Looper should be a nice model for everybody to follow."

Looper is 3-3 with a 3.02 ERA lifetime against the Pirates, including 3-2 with a 3.64 ERA in five starts.

He'll match up against Pittsburgh right-hander Jeff Karstens (1-0, 3.60), who held Florida to one run and three hits in six innings of a 3-2 victory Tuesday. Karstens was 0-1 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts against the Brewers last season.

Milwaukee closer Trevor Hoffman didn't get a chance to pitch in Sunday's loss but could make his debut with the club Monday.

Hoffman, who signed with Milwaukee over the winter after 15-plus seasons with San Diego during which he became the all-time leader in saves with 554, was activated from the disabled list Sunday after missing the start of the season because of a strained right oblique.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 27, 2009

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