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Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates @ Milwaukee Brewers

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The Brewers hope to right the ship against an opponent that’s proved to be helpful so far this year

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Every time the Brewers have felt down on themselves in the past month or so, the Pirates have been right there to pick them back up.

The Brewers hope a friendly face (and the return of Our Hero Keston Hiura) can help salvage a homestand that got off to a rough start against the Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners. The Brewers haven’t won a series since sweeping the Bucs during the first weekend of this month. Another to end June would mean a third straight winning calendar month (and go a long way in making everyone feel less angry about a baseball team).

Milwaukee enters this weekend 11-12 in June, while the Pirates have gone 10-13, trying to stay out of last place in the NL Central. This isn’t the punching bag the Brewers faced a few weeks ago, though -- the Pirates have won 7 of their last 10 games and actually have a +10 run differential for the month, which is actually quite an accomplishment considering they were one of the worst run differential teams in the league to start June (the Brewers, meanwhile have a run differential of -20 in June).

Probable Pitchers

Friday, June 28th - 7:10 p.m. CDT
Chris Archer vs. Jhoulys Chacin

Archer has continued to be wildly disappointing for the Pirates, putting up a 5.32 ERA so far in June, just about on par with his 5.56 season ERA. He gave up 4 runs in 7 innings against the Brewers the last time we saw him on May 31st, allowing 2 home runs to get the Brewers back into the game before Freddy Peralta allowed the 2 tack-on runs in what ended up being a 9-4 Pittsburgh win. Those two home runs came against Jesus Aguilar and Hiura.

Saturday, June 29th - 7:15 p.m. CDT
Jordan Lyles vs. Brandon Woodruff

The Brewers may have the secret recipe for success against Lyles after his time in Milwaukee, as they’ve hit him for 7 runs in 9 innings across 2 starts so far this year. Take out his appearances against the Brewers, and Lyles has an ERA of 3.10 instead of 3.64. Lyles went on the IL with a tight hamstring after his last start against the Brewers, meaning this will make 3 straight starts against his former Crew.

Sunday, June 30th - 1:10 p.m. CDT
Steven Brault vs. Zach Davies

While the overall season numbers still leave something to be desired (4.50 ERA, 1.577 WHIP, 44 strikeouts in 52 innings), Brault has put together a nice month of June with a 2.53 ERA. That includes holding the Brewers to just 2 runs in 6.1 innings on June 9th, with those runs coming in the 6th and 7th innings before the Brewers scored 3 in the 8th to steal a 5-2 win.

Previous Series

The Brewers swept the Pirates on June 7th-9th, winning the first game convincingly, 10-4, before coming from behind to also win the final 2 games. The Brewers are 5-1 against the Pirates so far this year, outscoring Pittsburgh 51-35 in those games.

Player to Watch

Josh Bell may have lost the popularity contest to Freddie Freeman in the vote to be the NL’s starting first baseman in the All-Star Game, but he’s still put together one of the most impressive first halves you’ll see. He enters the weekend hitting .311/.384/.646 with 22 home runs, a ridiculous 29 doubles, and 70 runs driven in -- the latter two enough to lead all of baseball.

He was bound to come back down to earth at least a little after such a hot start, though, and he has to the tune of a .233/.333/.500 line -- although that still means an .833 OPS with 9 doubles and 4 home runs in June. That skid seemingly started the last time these two teams faced, as Bell looked lost at the plate against Brewers pitching, going 0-for-9 with 2 walks and 4 strikeouts, including some embarrassingly bad swings. He’s shown some signs of breaking out of his June slump, though, collecting three extra-base hits in the past two days.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference