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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Pittsburgh Pirates

The Brewers hope to salvage what’s been a disappointing and frustrating road trip against what’s been one of baseball’s worst teams for the past month

MLB: New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Following a sweep at the hands of the Cubs, the Brewers desperately need a series win to get back into the thick of the NL Central race. Luckily, it’s time to face the Pittsburgh Pirates again.

The Brewers come into this week 9-4 against the Pirates this year, even after losing their previous meeting in early July. Since we’ve seen them last, the Pirates have slipped substantially, going from the outer edges of a tightly-bunched NL Central race -- remember the start of July, when every team in the division was within shouting distance of first place? -- to one of the worst teams in the National League.

After taking 2 of 3 from the Brewers to close out the first half, the Pirates have won a grand total of four (4!) games since the All-Star break. That includes a 9-game losing streak that stretched from July 21st to July 29th. Despite that, the Pirates more or less refused to sell off spare parts at the trade deadline, with the trades of Jordan Lyles to the Brewers and Corey Dickerson to the Phillies being the only moves they made while hanging on to veterans like Francisco Liriano and Melky Cabrera. They also hung onto closer Felipe Vazquez, who has multiple years of team control left but whose value may never be higher. A Vazquez trade could have potentially helped replentish a farm system that was depleted with the ill-fated trade for Chris Archer last year. Instead, a lights-out closer will remain stuck on a last-place team, pitching a couple times a week.

The Pirates have fallen so far that they’re now only 5 games ahead of the Marlins for the worst record in the NL. That leaves them with nothing to play for other than being a spoiler, and we know how good the Pirates can be at that for the Brewers lately.

Probable Pitchers

Monday, August 5th - 6:05 p.m. CDT
Jordan Lyles vs. Dario Agrazal

Agrazal has gotten some good results in his rookie season with a 3.65 ERA and 121 ERA+ in his first 7 starts, but the 24-year-old’s FIP is high at 6.35 due to the fact he isn’t striking anyone out, with just 18 strikeouts in 37 innings. Agrazal held the Brewers to 2 runs on 2 solo homers in 6 innings on July 6th.

Tuesday, August 6th - 6:05 p.m. CDT
Chase Anderson vs. Steven Brault

Brault will be coming off the injured list after suffering a shoulder strain, making his first appearance since pitching into the 5th inning against the Brewers on July 5th. He held the Brewers to 1 run on 3 hits over 4+ innings with 4 strikeouts in that game.

Wednesday, August 7th - 6:05 p.m. CDT
Zach Davies vs. Trevor Williams

Williams had a 3.11 ERA in 31 starts last year, but hasn’t gotten anywhere near the same results this year, with a 4.75 ERA in 16 starts despite increasing his strikeouts and cutting his walks this year. This is his first start against the Brewers this season after holding them scoreless in 3 starts covering 19 innings last year.

Previous Series

The Brewers last visited PNC Park just after the 4th of July, in the middle of their early-July slide that saw them go just 2-5 on a road trip through Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

The Brewers won the series’ first game, but just barely after a wild final three innings that saw the Brewers score 4 runs in the 8th to go up 6-1, but cough up 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th to force extra innings before Lorenzo Cain delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the 10th inning.

Pittsburgh responded by blowing out the Brewers 12-2 in the series’ second game and scoring 3 runs in the 7th inning of the finale before holding on for a one-run decision to take the series. The Pirates haven’t won a series since.

Player to Watch

If Bryan Reynolds wasn’t playing for a last-place team, he’d be getting more publicity for NL Rookie of the Year.

The 24-year-old is hitting .332/.406/.508 in 88 games this year, with 9 home runs and 22 doubles in 301 at-bats, and has accounted for 2.6 fWAR -- the same amount as former Pirates prospect and Chris Archer trade centerpiece Austin Meadows has produced for Tampa Bay this year.

Reynolds has been especially effective against the Brewers this year, hitting .439/.531/.634 in 49 plate appearances over 13 games this year. Five of his 22 doubles and one of his 9 home runs have come against the Brewers this season. It appears he’s following in the footsteps of Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte as Pirates outfielders whose main purpose in life is to destroy the Brewers.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs