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Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates @ Milwaukee Brewers

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The Brewers hope to continue to take advantage of their schedule this month

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Brewers have been able to take advantage of a favorable June schedule so far this month and will hope to keep that going this weekend against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Since the last time we’ve seen Pittsburgh, they’ve somehow become the butt of jokes at least twice — first for their refusal to step on first base in a play that led to Javier Baez once again getting credit for something he didn’t really do, and then again for their refusal to step on first base during a home run. Their allergy to stepping on first base seems to be a problem, considering it’s literally the first base you should touch on most plays in a baseball game.

Considering that, it’s probably no surprise the Pirates are the only team in the NL Central not actively in the division race. They come into this weekend 11.5 games behind the Brewers and 6 games behind the nearest team in the standings, the Reds — who the Brewers just took 2 of 3 from. They’ve lost four straight games, including getting swept at home this week by the Dodgers.

The Lineup

Adam Frazier is one of the league’s leading hitters, hitting .329 so far, which is the best by anyone in the National League not playing for the Reds. It’s not an empty batting average, either, as he’s also put up a .391 OBP and has hit 22 doubles already this year.

Bryan Reynolds has been the biggest consistent offensive threat for the Bucs so far this year, hitting .284/.389/.507 with a team-leading 10 home runs and 30 runs driven in. He’s also consistently killed the Brewers in his short big league career and proved that again the last time we saw the Pirates, as he went 5-for-9 with 3 walks in a series the Pirates actually stole from the Brewers at American Family Field.

Top prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes has also made his return to the lineup in the last week or so after missing much of the season due to injury. He’s looked like a superstar in the making every time he’s been on the field so far, and is hitting .346/.393/.577 in 7 games since returning.

The Probable Pitchers

Journeyman Chase De Jong will take the ball first for the Pirates against Brandon Woodruff later tonight. He’s made two starts for the Pirates so far, allowing a total of 6 runs in 10 innings, striking out 10. Most of those runs allowed came in his last start, though, when the Marlins hit him around for 5 earned runs. Since he hasn’t appeared much, there isn’t much Statcast data on how he’s throwing this year, but he averages about 92 mph on his fastball — a touch slower than he was throwing last year.

Chad Kuhl will face off against Corbin Burnes Saturday. He’s been largely a slider-fastball pitcher this year, in that order, throwing his 88 mph slider 43% of the time and his 94 mph fastball 40% of the time. He hasn’t struck many batters out this year and has walked even fewer, but has been able to limit hard contact. With how much he’s been in the zone, though, that hasn’t helped much, as he comes into this weekend with a 5.61 ERA in 6 starts. He turned in a strong start his last time out, though, holding the Marlins to 3 runs (2 runs) over 6 innings.

Sunday’s starter for the Pirates against Adrian Houser is still listed as TBD.