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Series Preview: Milwaukee Brewers @ Pittsburgh Pirates

After a long stretch of games against playoff contenders, the Brewers may be able to catch a breather this weekend against baseball’s worst team

MLB: AUG 20 Indians at Pirates Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Pirates stink.

There’s no other way around it, no otherway to describe them after they’ve started the year 4-17. In a year where basically everyone halfway decent will make the playoffs, we already pretty much know the Pirates won’t, and they’re currently the odds-on favorite to at least turn this giant asterisk of a season into a #1 overall pick.

They could use the help, because the Major League roster is largely lacking in talent. We got a glimpse of that already this year when the Brewers took 2 out of 3 in their last trip to Pittsburgh, and things haven’t gotten much better, as they’ve only won twice since the Brewers left town.

They’ve had losing streaks of 7, 3 and now 4 in between, and are coming off a game in which Shane Bieber made them look silly with 11 strikeouts in a 2-0 shutout.

The offense is flat-out terrible even when they aren’t facing the early front-runner for AL Cy Young. They rank 29th in runs scored, batting average, and slugging percentage, and are dead last in on-base percentage. The advanced numbers are ugly, too — Pittsburgh batters have put up a league-worst -0.7 fWAR, .262 wOBA, 63 wRC+ and 64 OPS+.

They’re a below-replacement level team that had no intention of truly competing in a full season, and certainly have not appeared to try during the shortened season.

To make matters worse, pitcher Trevor Williams recently tested positive for COVID-19. He says he took precautions once he started feeling ill, and as far as he knows did not expose himself to other players. Still, it may be another couple days before the team can be sure of that. As of now, all of this weekend’s scheduled games are still on.

Pitchers, Probably

Friday, August 21st - 6:05 p.m. CDT
Adrian Houser vs. Chad Kuhl

Saturday, August 22nd - 3:05 p.m. CDT
Josh Lindblom vs. Derek Holland

Sunday, August 23rd - 12:35 p.m. CDT
Corbin Burnes vs. JT Brubaker

Kuhl will be making his third start in a row after starting the year in the bullpen. His first appearance of the year actually came against the Brewers, as he pitched 3.2 innings for the Pirates after the long rain delay during the Brewers’ first trip to Pittsburgh. He held the Brewers scoreless in that appearance, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4. He pitched a season-high 5 innigns in his last start, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits while striking out 6 in Cincinnati last Friday.

Holland, meanwhile, will be making his 4th start of the year, but things haven’t gone well for him thus far. He’s been below replacement level to this point and has an ERA+ of just 62 (100 is average), but a lot of that damage came in one start on August 8th, when he gave up 9 runs on 13 hits over 5 innings in which he gave up 5 home runs. He went 9 days without pitching after that, and most recently threw 2 shutout innings in relief on Tuesday. He held the Brewers to 2 runs over 5.2 innings the last time he saw them, in the only game the Pirates took from Milwaukee in their first meeting.

Like Kuhl, Brubaker will be making his third start after starting the year in Pittsburgh’s pen. The 26-year-old rookie has been more of a multi-inning opener for the Pirates to this point because of that, lasting just 3 innings or a little more than 50 pitches in his starts. He allowed 3 runs in 3 innings in his last appearance on Tuesday, starting the game before Holland came on in relief. He’s struck out 10 batters in 11 innings so far, but has also walked 6 — including 3 in his last outing.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs