A revitalized offense has the Pittsburgh Pirates in position to sweep a series at Milwaukee for the first time in 10 years.
If the Pirates are to do so with a fourth consecutive victory Sunday, they likely must again get the best of Mike Fiers as he tries to improve to 4-0 as a starter for the Brewers.
Pittsburgh (67-62) scored 24 runs during a seven-game skid it snapped by rallying for a 3-2 victory over Atlanta on Wednesday.
That win appears to have revived the Pirates, who have followed by outscoring NL Central-leading Milwaukee (71-58) 18-5 in the first two of this set. Pedro Alvarez homered twice off 15-game winner Wily Peralta and had four RBIs in Saturday’s 10-2 rout of the Brewers, who have dropped three straight following a five-game winning streak.
Alvarez was 5 for 34 with no homers, two RBIs and 16 strikeouts in his previous 15 games before breaking out to help third-place Pittsburgh move within four games of Milwaukee.
”Anytime you can do something like that, especially when you help your team win a ballgame, is huge and it feels good,” Alvarez said.
Neil Walker added three hits with three RBIs for the Pirates, who were 1-5 this year at Miller Park prior to this series, but can sweep a set there for the first time since April 30-May 2, 2004.
Walker is batting .429 in the last five games versus Milwaukee, and is 5 for 10 with a homer and double versus Fiers (3-1, 1.29 ERA).
Teammate Andrew McCutchen has been even better against the right-hander while going 6 for 11 with four homers.
McCutchen has hit two of the five home runs Fiers has yielded while going 0-2 with an 8.00 ERA versus Pittsburgh at Miller Park in his career.
Fiers, however, has allowed two runs, eight hits and struck out 25 with three walks over 21 innings to win his three starts since being recalled from the minors to replace the injured Matt Garza. He gave up a run and two hits in seven innings of a 6-1 victory over Toronto on Tuesday.
”He’s throwing strikes, working ahead, executing,” catcher Jonathan Lucroy said.
Fiers went 9-10 with a 3.77 ERA in 22 starts for Milwaukee in 2012, before pitching in 11 games with three starts last season, going 1-4 with a 7.25 ERA. He’s appeared in seven games in 2014, and could be in the majors to stay – at least for this season.
”I feel like I can pitch this way and compete well at this level,” Fiers said.
He’ll be opposed by Vance Worley (5-3, 2.92), who is 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts against the Brewers, but has not faced them since 2012 with Philadelphia.
The right-hander allowed six runs – three earned – over 28 innings to go 3-0 over a four-start stretch prior to yielding 11 runs – eight earned – in 11 1-3 innings in two straight losses. Worley has given up two homers in each of the last two, most recently Monday along with six runs in six innings of a 7-3 loss to Atlanta.
Ryan Braun is 3 for 10 with two doubles against Worley, and batting .321 in the last seven home games against the Pirates.