PIRATES (38-41) AT BREWERS (43-88)
8:10 p.m. ET; FSWI, ATTSN-PT, MLB.TV
Whether the National League’s Central Division is the best in baseball is up for debate.
But it’s certainly the most competitive.
A mere 6 1/2 games separate the division-leading Chicago Cubs from the last-place Cincinnati Reds.
That puts the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates, who open a three-game series Friday at Miller Park, squarely in the playoff chase.
The Brewers (43-38) are in second place in the division, one game behind the Cubs, while the Pirates (38-41) are fourth, five games back.
Three weeks ago, the Brewers swept the Pirates in a three-game series in Milwaukee, after taking three of four a week before that in Pittsburgh. But the fortunes of both teams have changed since.
The Brewers are just 5-10 since the sweep, even after a 4-2 victory against Seattle on Thursday, when Chase Anderson opened the scoring with a suicide-squeeze bunt and pitched into the sixth inning, and Orlando Arcia added a three-run homer.
This series begins a stretch of six games out of 10 against the Pirates before the All-Star break.
“I feel like we have a long way to go to the All-Star break,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “A lot of action, and we can do a lot of good things before the All-Star break.”
The Pirates are just 8-7 since being swept by the Brewers but have won six of their past seven — capped by a 10-0 victory Thursday at Houston, in which they hit five home runs and Joe Musgrove pitched six scoreless innings against his former team.
“Selfishly, it’s always nice to come in against your old team and throw well,” Musgrove said. “To get the win is awesome. But I think the more important thing is how we’re playing as a team right now. To have an offensive outburst against a really good team like this, it’s good momentum.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said there’s no secret to his team’s recent success. Pittsburgh handed Houston its first series loss of the season at home.
“Top-shelf pitching the last two days and hard contact at the plate the last two days,” Hurdle said. “We ran the bases well. We made good contact. It was fun to watch our team compete and come out and win a series.”
The two pitchers faced off May 31 in Pittsburgh, a game the Pirates won 9-4. Archer went seven innings and allowed four runs on five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. Chacin lasted just 2 2/3 innings and allowed seven runs on six hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
That was the only career victory for Archer against the Brewers, as he’s 1-2 with a 6.14 ERA in four career starts against them. Chacin hasn’t fared any better against the Pirates, with a 2-7 record and 4.96 ERA in 13 career starts.
The Brewers got a boost Thursday with the return of center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who had missed the previous three games and flew to Los Angeles for a cryogenic treatment and a cortisone shot on his ailing right thumb. Cain went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts while batting sixth instead of his usual leadoff spot.
“It got to the point where I was swinging and missing, and I was having problems,” Cain told MLB.com of his thumb injury. “I talked to the trainers, and it was time to get something done. Hopefully, that gets the pain out of there. … I’ve been swinging with pain for close to over a month now. If I can get the pain out of there, it would be huge.”
–Field Level Media