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Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates @ Milwaukee Brewers

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The Brewers hope to build another winning streak in their first series against the Bucs this year

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

It turns out all it takes for us to feel better about the 2018 Milwaukee Brewers is for them to play anyone other than the Cubs. Fresh off a sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, the Brewers return home to face the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time this year.

After jumping out to an early division lead with an 11-4 start, the Pirates have cooled off considerably once their schedule stopped featuring games against the Tigers, Reds and Marlins (although to be fair, they did take 2 of 3 from the Cubs in April). They’re coming into town on the heels of getting swept in 4 games in Washington, and have proven to be quite the streaky team so far. Following that hot start, they lost 7 of 9, including 5 in a row, then won 5 straight before that 4-game sweep in D.C.

The Bucs will be missing Noted Brewer Killer Josh Harrison this series. He went on the disabled list in mid-April with a broken hand and will probably be out through the end of this month. Francisco Cervelli has actually been one of their better hitters to this point, putting up a .983 OPS with a .310/.388/.595 line and ranking second on the team with 5 home runs. Corey Dickerson has proven to be a good addition for them, getting a .315/.355/.523 line basically for free.

While Gerrit Cole is lighting it up for Houston right now, one of the bigger pieces they got in exchange for him is holding his own, too. Colin Moran is hitting .287/.376/.425 in his first month-plus as a Pirate.

Probable Pitchers

Friday - 7:10 p.m.
Nick Kingham vs. Junior Guerra

Saturday - 6:10 p.m.
Jameson Taillon vs. Jhoulys Chacin

Sunday - 1:10 p.m.
Chad Kuhl vs. Chase Anderson

The probables were shuffled after it was announced Zach Davies was going on the DL, with Chacin and Anderson moving up a day each, made possible since the team has two off days in a five-day span.

Kingham is coming off his first career start, in which he took a perfect game into the 7th inning against the Cardinals and ended up allowing only 1 hit over 7 innings, striking out 9. Formerly one of the best pitching prospects in baseball -- Kingham appearing in Top-100 lists before the 2014 and 2015 seasons -- injuries have derailed his last few years, pushing back his debut until now at age 26. It looked like those injury problems were going to rob him of his best strikeout stuff until this year, when he put up 27 punchouts in 22.2 innings over his first 4 Triple-A starts before his big league debut.

Taillon got off to a hot start to the year with 3 good-to-very good starts, allowing just 2 runs over his first 20.1 innings with 18 strikeouts. Of course, those starts came against the Twins, Reds and Marlins. He’s gotten hit around since, including a 1.2-inning, 5-run outing against the Phillies and 7 earned runs on 10 hits in 3.2 innings against the Tigers. He rebounded a bit in his last outing, putting up a quality start against the Nationals, but he still took the loss. Taillon held the Brewers to 4 runs over 10.1 innings in 2 starts last year.

Kuhl has been getting knocked around a bit to start the 2018 season, giving up 7 home runs already in 32.1 innings after giving up 17 all of last year. His ERA stands at 5.01 heading into this weekend’s start, but he hasn’t had one particularly bad start this year. Instead, it’s been a mix of perfectly mediocre pitching and a handful of quality outings. He hasn’t given up more than 4 earned runs in a start this year, and even had back-to-back quality starts against Colorado and Detroit to close April, but he’s also given up a healthy amount of hits and generally has had to walk a tightrope in nearly all of his outings.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference