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Preview: Pirates Look To End Hard-Luck Streak Against Brewers

(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Pirates are coming off perhaps their most complete victory of the season. They'll need that momentum given their struggles versus the Milwaukee Brewers this season.

The Pirates will try to snap a four-game skid to the Brewers and beat the club for just the fourth time in 12 meetings this season in the opener of a four- game series tonight at PNC Park.

Milwaukee's season looked to be in good shape given how it performed versus Pittsburgh earlier this season. The Brewers won their first four games versus the Pirates -- all in April -- by a 53-4 margin before losing three in a row to the Buccos. However, the Brewers have countered with another four-game win streak over Pittsburgh, sweeping a three-game set in Milwaukee from July 9-11 in the most recent meeting.

The Pirates, who have lost four of five at home to the Brew Crew this season, seem to be putting things together though after a seven-game overall slide. They outscored the Astros, 21-6, in taking the final two contests of a three- game weekend series, winning Sunday's finale 9-0 behind a season-high 19 hits and a three-hit shutout by starter Paul Maholm.

Maholm did not permit a runner past first base, allowing just three singles while notching the second shutout of his career.

"Everything was good. I threw one slider all day," commented Maholm about his outing during which he retired the side in order five times. "I mixed speeds with the curveball and the sinker. I threw a few changeups. They were aggressive, so I kept the ball down and let them beat it into the ground."

Ronny Cedeno had four hits, including three doubles, and scored twice, Ryan Doumit had a trio of hits and Garrett Jones hit a two-run homer, the Pirates' first with a man on base since June 8 that ended a streak of 1,097 straight at-bats. That was the longest such run since the Astros in 1984.

The Pirates won for the seventh time in their last nine home games, but did see center fielder Andrew McCutchen suffer a sprained right shoulder after making a diving catch in the eighth inning that has him day-to-day.

Right-hander Jeff Karstens will be looking tonight to avenge a loss to the Brewers in his last outing, a July 10 loss in which he gave up four runs on five hits and a career-high six walks. He also fanned five, but gave up back- to-back homers to Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in the five-inning start.

The 27-year-old fell to 2-4 with a 4.87 earned run average on the season and 0-2 with a 4.01 ERA in eight career games versus Milwaukee, five of those starts.

Braun and Fielder both contributed at the plate on Sunday versus Atlanta, but Milwaukee still dropped an 11-6 decision. Fielder hit his 22nd homer of the season -- a solo blast -- while Braun had three hits and drove in a run.

Rickie Weeks added a pair of home runs, giving him a career-high 17 on the season which is also a Brewers single-season record by a second baseman. However, starter Manny Parra allowed 10 runs -- five in the third inning -- over 5 1/3 frames to suffer the loss.

Milwaukee had won five of six coming in.

"We didn't get the job done but I thought we played good baseball. Sometimes it goes that way, but we have something to build off of. We got another great team over there and we split [the four-game series] with them," Weeks said.

With Doug Davis on the disabled list due to left elbow tendinitis, 31-year-old Chris Capuano will get another chance to end his franchise-record 13-decision losing streak that dates back to the 2007 season.

Capuano pitched for the first time since that season on June 3 after returning from dual Tommy John surgeries and the left-hander made the start versus the Marlins. However, he took the loss after giving up three runs over 3 2/3 innings and has since made seven relief outings without a decision.

Capuano, who hasn't won since May 7, 2007, is pitching to a 4.35 ERA this year and recorded two outs while working around a hit versus the Pirates on July 9. In 12 career meetings versus the club, including 11 starts, he is 2-6 with a 6.34 ERA.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.