The Pirates are in second place in the NL Central entering play today for the first time in August.
The Brewers will get a chance to keep them there at 6:05 tonight when they take on Jeff Locke (3.01 ERA, 3.87 FIP). The former 2006 second round pick has been very successful in his first full MLB season, making the 2013 All Star team, but has struggled lately. He has a 7.77 ERA in his last five starts and allowed three runs on five hits and four walks over just four innings against the Giants on Thursday.
I feel like I'm saying this about a lot of guys lately, but the trick to beating Locke may be patience. He leads all NL pitchers with 72 walks issued this season, including 44 in his last 74 innings (5.4 per nine innings). He's unlikely to give up home runs, though: Opposing hitters have taken him deep just eight times this season, and three of those came in one game.
Locke has pitched a pair of quality starts against the Brewers this season, holding them to three runs over six innings on May 14 and shutting them out for six innings on May 25, both games the Pirates went on to win. No current Brewers have faced him ten times or more, but Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura and Jonathan Lucroy have all homered off him.
He'll face Kyle Lohse (3.22 ERA, 4.17 FIP) in his 27th start of the season. Lohse has pitched quality starts in six of his last seven outings, including against the Cardinals on Tuesday when he allowed three runs on six hits over six innings in a 6-3 Brewer win. With the Brewers off on Thursday and again yesterday, he's pitching on two extra days of rest.
Knock on wood, but it's possible Lohse is actually showing more durability in his mid-30's than he did at any other point in his career. He needs 40.2 more innings this season to break 200, a mark he's reached just three times before and never in back-to-back seasons. If he continues to pitch every fifth game he'd made seven more starts this year.
Lohse has faced the Pirates twice this year but one start was an abbreviated 1.2 inning outing on June 30. He's allowed a combined two runs on five hits over 7.1 innings, with six walks and five strikeouts. Seven current Pirates have faced him ten times or more:
Tabata's 12 career hits against Lohse are tied for the fifth most among all active players. Only Carlos Beltran (25), Alfonso Soriano (20), Hunter Pence (15) and David DeJesus (13) have more. Ryan Braun is tied for eighth with 11.
Tonight's lineup is as follows:
Norichika Aoki RF
Jean Segura SS
Jonathan Lucroy C
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Carlos Gomez CF
Khris Davis LF
Yuniesky Betancourt 1B
Scooter Gennett 2B
Kyle Lohse P
And in the bullpen:
- Brandon Kintzler pitched one inning (16 pitches) on Sunday.
- Jim Henderson pitched one inning (12 pitches) on Sunday.
- John Axford, Michael Gonzalez, Burke Badenhop and Tyler Thornburg last pitched on Saturday.
- Rob Wooten last pitched on Friday.
Weather certainly has a chance to play a significant factor in tonight's game. The forecast calls for a game time temperature around 78 with high humidity and a chance for scattered thunderstorms throughout the evening.