Brewers, Pirates search for offensive resurgence

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The Pittsburgh Pirates and the visiting Milwaukee Brewers will be in search of offense in their weekend series that opens Friday.

The Brewers have won four of their past six games, but they feel as if they are falling short at the plate. That was on full display Thursday when they lost 7-1 at Minnesota.

The defeat dropped Milwaukee to 0-7 with a chance to climb above .500. The Brewers will have to win two of three in Pittsburgh to get back to the break-even point.

One formula that might help would be getting early runs. They had no hits until the fifth inning Thursday and didn’t get their lone run until the seventh.

The Brewers have been outscored 32-4 over the first two innings this season, 14-2 in the first and 18-2 in the second.

Milwaukee also is looking to get production from right fielder Ryan Braun, who is batting .214 in a campaign that was interrupted for eight games due to a finger injury.

Braun, who has been back for seven games, had a four-game hitting streak before going 0-for-4 on Thursday.

“This is where we want him — in games,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. “We have to work hard to keep him healthy and to be in there, but he’s a presence in a lineup. That’s the biggest thing — he makes our lineup different.

“Keeping him involved and active and there for the big games is still what we have to do. I think if we get him consistent at-bats, he’s going to produce still. He’s a dangerous hitter.”

The Pirates have lost four consecutive games and seven of eight. They were outscored 14-4 in getting swept by the Cleveland Indians over the past three games.

During that series, Aaron Civale and Shane Bieber had outstanding starts for the Indians.

“To (that) point, we have faced really good pitching,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said, “but the second point is we have to hit. We’ve got to have better at-bats.”

Pirates catcher Jacob Stallings suggested the team is pressing at the plate.

“Just naturally, it’s a lot easier to be negative with yourself,” Stallings said. “It’s a lot harder, especially when things aren’t going well, to be positive with yourself. And we’ve got a lot of young guys, too. Some of them, this is the first time they’ve struggled in the big leagues. That within itself has a lot of challenges that come along with it.”

In the series opener, Milwaukee right-hander Adrian Houser (1-1, 3.27 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander Chad Kuhl (0-1, 3.21 ERA).

In a no-decision Saturday against the Chicago Cubs, Houser gave up three runs and five hits in five innings but retired the last eight batters he faced.

He is 1-1 with a 6.43 ERA in five career games, two of them starts, against Pittsburgh.

Kuhl will be making his fifth appearance of the year, his third start. He has 13 strikeouts in nine innings in the two starts.

Against the Brewers in his career, Kuhl is 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA in seven games, six of them starts, and the Pirates are 6-0 in those starts.

–Field Level Media

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