The Milwaukee Brewers return to Miller Park riding their longest winning streak of the season.
Given the Brewers' history at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates, there's a good chance that run will continue.
Milwaukee goes for a fifth straight victory Friday night when these NL Central rivals begin their season series.
Back from a 5-2 trip, the Brewers (23-28) open a nine-game homestand with the first of 15 games against the Pirates (25-25) in 2012.
Milwaukee won 12 of 15 matchups a year ago, including eight of nine at Miller Park.
The Brewers have won 43 of 49 at home in this series, outscoring Pittsburgh by more than 2.6 runs per game during this stretch.
"We're going to a place where, historically, we have not played well," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told the team's official website. "So that'll be a great challenge."
Milwaukee's last 5-0 stretch was a six-game run that started with a three-game home sweep of Pittsburgh from Aug. 12-14.
The Pirates, though, have won five of six and have a chance to move above. 500 for the first time since they were 2-1 on April 8.
"They've been playing well," former Pirate Aramis Ramirez said after his two-run homer in Thursday's 6-2 victory helped the Brewers complete a four-game sweep of the major league-best Los Angeles Dodgers.
Pittsburgh is batting .218 with a .272 on-base percentage - both NL lows - but the club is one of the major league leaders with a 3.23 ERA. Four of the team's last six starters have not given up a run.
"We can pitch,' Hurdle said. "Our guys aren't going to back down from anybody that comes up to the plate. We feel very confident with what we're able to do.'
But Kevin Correia (1-5, 4.30 ERA) - winless in his last seven outings - might not be brimming with confidence. Not only does he have one of the lowest run-support averages in the majors at 2.41, he has a 6.86 ERA while losing his last four starts versus Milwaukee.
Correia went 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA in two starts at Miller Park in 2011. He was 10-1 in his other 12 starts outside Pittsburgh.
It looks like Correia will have to face Ryan Braun, who missed Thursday's game due to tightness in his right Achilles. The Pirates surely wouldn't mind if the reigning NL MVP rested a bit more, as Braun is a .350 hitter with 12 homers and 37 RBIs in 36 home games versus Pittsburgh, with Milwaukee winning 33 times.
"He should be back in there tomorrow,' manager Ron Roenicke said. "If he comes in tomorrow and he's stiff, then we'll change that. But he felt pretty good (Thursday) and was ready to pinch-hit. So he should be ready.'
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, among the NL's best with a .331 average, has not enjoyed that type of success in this series. He went 6 for 50 with 10 strikeouts against Milwaukee in 2011, and Pittsburgh has dropped 14 in a row at Miller Park with the All-Star in the lineup.
McCutchen was hit by a ball in the abdomen during batting practice and missed a 9-8 victory Sept. 26 that ended the Pirates' 12-game skid in Milwaukee.
McCutchen has four singles in 23 at_bats against Friday's starter Randy Wolf (2-4, 5.73), who is 0-2 with a 4.71 ERA in five starts since his last victory April 30.
Wolf was 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts versus Pittsburgh last season. If the left-hander struggles Friday, Roenicke likely won't hesitate to make a call to the bullpen. Milwaukee's relievers had a 1.37 ERA on the trip.
The Associated Press News Service
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