The Pittsburgh Pirates have recently struggled against the Milwaukee Brewers but would appear to have an opportunity to change that this week.
The Brewers head into Pittsburgh having lost nine of their first 10 games this month while the Pirates will be trying for a season-high fourth consecutive win Monday night.
Pittsburgh (21-16) has lost 29 of its past 37 games against its NL Central rival and 10 of 13 at PNC Park. The Pirates dropped two of three in Milwaukee in their only meeting this season, and a 6-4 comeback win in the May 1 finale snapped a nine-game skid in the series.
Pittsburgh, though, enters after outscoring the Mets 21-7 in its final three games in New York. The Pirates won 3-2 in Sunday's finale with Pedro Alvarez providing the tiebreaking single in the eighth inning.
Pittsburgh turns to A.J. Burnett as it tries to win four straight for the first time since July 25-28. The veteran right-hander has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last five starts and has pitched six or more innings in all but one outing.
Burnett (3-3, 2.57 ERA), though, has had some trouble getting enough support with the Pirates providing him with an average of 3.31 runs per nine innings. He gave up two runs and two hits over seven innings Wednesday but was outdueled by Seattle ace Felix Hernandez in a 2-1 defeat.
"(A.J.) was a grown man out there doing some good work," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told the team's website.
Similarly, Burnett had a 3.66 ERA in three starts against Milwaukee last season but was backed by two total runs and went 0-2.
This time, he'll face a Brewers team that's dropped four straight after a 5-1 loss in Cincinnati on Sunday. Milwaukee (15-20) has been outscored 26-12 during the skid and 64-35 in its last 10 overall games, a stretch that began with the loss to Pittsburgh on May 1.
The Brewers have been hitting a respectable .279 over the last 10 games and Ryan Braun had a 12-game hit streak before Sunday's defeat. Milwaukee's starting pitchers, however, have an 8.12 ERA this month.
Marco Estrada (2-2, 6.05) gave up a career-high eight runs in a 10-1 loss to St. Louis on May 5, and has allowed 13 runs over his past two outings, covering 8 1-3 innings.
The Brewers gave Estrada two more days of rest and an extra bullpen session to prepare for Monday's start. He's 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in six career starts against Pittsburgh but gave up five runs over five innings in a 12-8 win April 30.
"I feel a million times better," Estrada told the team's website. "I know those things are going to happen, but I didn't like how the mental aspect of it was lost. Normally, I feel like I have pretty good control over that. I didn't have it that day, but I've worked on it. Mentally, right now, I'm pretty strong."
Andrew McCutchen, batting .343 with seven homers and 19 RBIs in his past 17 games against Milwaukee, has six hits in his last 12 at_bats against Estrada, including a pair of home runs.
Braun is 6 for 14 (.429) all-time against Burnett, but he may get a day off to rest his neck and back.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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