(Sports Network) - Led by Pedro Alvarez, Pittsburgh's offense has exploded since the All-Star break. Seems that Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo is coming back at just the right time.
Gallardo is set to make his first start in nearly three weeks as the Brewers try to earn a split of their four-game series with the Pirates at PNC Park.
Pittsburgh has scored nine or more runs in four of six games since the Mid- Summer classic, winning four of those contests. After plating nine runs in the first inning of yesterday's 11-9 triumph, the Pirates pounded out 18 hits in a 15-3 victory last night. It marked the first time the Buccos have plated 15 runs since Sept. 17, 2008 and they have notched at least 17 hits in three of their last five games.
"They've been swinging the bats pretty well," Brewers manager Ken Macha said of the Pirates. "We came in here and held them to one run [Monday] night. In the last two nights, you make mistakes or your pitch selection is bad ... that's what happens."
Alvarez has been a big part of that. The third baseman notched a pair of homers for the second straight game and is batting .389 (14-for-36) over his last nine games with five homers and 11 RBI. He also became the first Pirates rookie to notch back-to-back multi-homer games.
Delwyn Young highlighted a six-run fourth inning with a three-run homer and drove in a career-high five runs in all on three hits, while starter Zach Duke picked up his first victory since May 18 by pitching six-plus innings and allowing three runs, two of those earned.
Pittsburgh didn't come out of last night's game unscathed though as catcher Ryan Doumit left after three innings due to nausea and lightheadedness stemming from a first-inning collision at the plate with Milwaukee's Rickie Weeks.
Andrew McCutchen also did not start for a third game in a row due to a right shoulder injury and it is unknown if he will get to take his swings tonight against Gallardo, who will come off the disabled list to make his first start since July 4.
Gallardo has been out with a right oblique strain suffered that day in a loss to the Cardinals. He gave up six runs, only one earned, on five hits and two walks over 2 2/3 innings before his exit, falling to 8-4 on the season with a 2.58 earned run average.
"I was lucky enough that it was a minor thing," Gallardo told MLB.com "The way that I felt that Sunday when I came out of the game, I felt like it was going to be a lot worse. But it got better every day."
The right-hander, who was forced to miss the All-Star Game due to the injury, has dominated the Pirates in two starts this year, yielding just two unearned runs over 11 innings while striking out 14 in a pair of victories. Gallardo, 24, is 5-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 10 career outings versus the Pirates, nine of those starts, and 4-1 with a 2.31 ERA in nine road starts this year.
He'll try to fare better than last night's starter, Randy Wolf, who allowed 12 runs on 13 hits -- both career highs -- over 5 2/3 innings. Milwaukee starters have now allowed at least 10 runs in three of their last four games. The Brewers have lost three of those games and are 3-4 on an eight-game road trip to begin the second half.
The post All-Star schedule hasn't been kind to Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf, who lasted a career-low 1 1/3 innings on Saturday versus the Astros and gave up four runs on five hits and two walks. The 27-year-old did not get a decision after his offense bailed him out in a 12-6 victory.
"He just struggled," Pirates manager John Russell told his club's website. "Bad temp. Bad location. Ball was up. Everything that could go wrong, [went] wrong."
The right-handed Ohlendorf is just 1-7 with a 4.62 ERA on the season and 2-1 with a 3.50 ERA in three career starts versus the Brewers.
The Pirates have still lost nine of 14 versus the Brewers this year, including five of eight at home.