A couple of months ago, many were calling the Pittsburgh Pirates the surprise team in the NL, as it appeared that they were playoff bound when they led the NL Wild Card race. However, since then things have taken a turn for the worst for the Pirates while other teams like the Brewers and Phillies have gotten hot enough to put themselves in contention to win a Wild Card spot. The Brew Crew continued their surge last night and the Pirates continued their second half slide, as Milwaukee took game two of the current three-game set with Pittsburgh 3-1 and will go for the sweep today.
Brewers starter Marco Estrada pitched seven scoreless innings and then helped his own cause by driving in a run in the fifth with an RBI single to make it 2-0 Milwaukee at that point. The Brewers tacked on one more in the seventh, as Estrada put the ball in play again and this time reached on an error by Pirates second baseman, Brock Holt. Jean Segura crossed the plate on the play and although the Brewers gave up a ninth inning homer, nixing the shutout, they held on for their sixth consecutive win against Pittsburgh.
“Sometimes you just have your mojo against another team, and that seems to be the case with us against the Pirates,” Milwaukee Manager, Ron Roenicke told ESPN.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, many more teams have had their number during the second half of the season. The Pirates fell to 74-74 after last night’s loss and are now in danger of enduring their 20th consecutive losing season, which would extend their current North American professional sports record for a losing season streak. They have lost 20 of their last 27 games and are at .500 for the first time since June 2. With just 14 games remaining this season, the Pirates playoff hopes are dwindling, as they are now four and a half games back of St. Louis.
The Brewers, on the other hand, have made a second half push that has put them into the NL Wild Card mix. Even after trading their ace, Zach Greinke, to the Angels at the deadline, Milwaukee has still managed to win 22 of its last 28 games and is now sitting at just two and a half games behind the Cardinals for the second spot.
Milwaukee will try to make it seven in a row against Pittsburgh today as it sends Mike Fiers (9-8, 3.23 ERA) to the mound to square off against Wandy Rodriguez (11-13, 3.65 ERA). After starting the season 6-4 with a 1.82 ERA in 12 starts, Fiers has struggled since, as he has posted a 6.55 ERA in his last seven outings.
“The playoffs are right around the corner, and we need to win as many games as possible,” Fiers told ESPN after a five inning, four earned run performance in a 7-3 loss against the Mets. “Sure, there’s a bit pressure there, but there is no excuse for me throwing the ball all over the place.”
Fiers did manage to win this same matchup against Rodriguez and the Pirates last month, when he had one of his better outings this year, as he struck out 10 hitters and only allowed three earned runs in six and two-thirds innings. Look for him to repeat this type of performance in another Brewers win today. I like Milwaukee to stay hot and Pittsburgh to stay cold, as the Brewers cover the -1.5 runline. It will still be a tall order for them to make the postseason, but with the winning attitude they have in the clubhouse right now, it wouldn’t be too surprising if they did.