Brewers, Braun brace for Pirates

MILWAUKEE — Ryan Braun should be back in the Milwaukee Brewers’ lineup Sunday afternoon when they wrap up a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park.

Braun had been bothered by a sore right calf the last few days and was limited to pinch-hitting duty as manager Craig Counsell tried to take a conservative approach to the injury.

Braun came up big for Milwaukee on Saturday night, breaking 3-3 tie with a two-run double in the eighth inning that proved to be the difference in the Brewers’ 5-3 victory.

It’s not the first time Braun has come up big in the clutch for Milwaukee (20-14) this season. He’s put Milwaukee ahead with a pair of ninth-inning home runs and is 7-for-10 with three home runs and 13 RBIs when batting with runners in scoring position and two outs in 2018.

“As a player, those are the situations you hope to have an opportunity to impact the game in,” Braun said. “Fortunately, I was able to come through tonight.”

Orlando Arcia should also be back in the lineup Sunday. The Brewers shortstop got a day to rest Saturday night and Counsell started Eric Sogard in his place, despite carrying a .107 average into the game.

Counsell said before the game that the best way to snap players out of a funk oftentimes is to give them a couple days in the lineup and Sogard rewarded his manager’s faith Saturday, reaching base three times on walks (one intentional) — including the one that set up Braun’s game-winning double.

“He’s swung the bat so much better than the numbers would indicate,” Braun said. “I’ve seen him line out six or seven times probably in last last 15-20 plate appearances and have nothing to show for it, so it was really nice to see him at least get a few walks tonight, and each of the walks seemed to be in a meaningful situation.

“I wouldn’t have even gotten an opportunity if not for both him and Domingo (Santana) finding a way to get on base.”

A victory Sunday would clinch Milwaukee’s seventh series victory in 11 tries this season.

The Pirates (18-16), meanwhile, have won their first three series against NL Central opponents — compiling a 9-4 record in those contests — and will try to stay unbeaten in series play against divisional foes behind right-hander Chad Kuhl (3-2, 5.01 ERA), who’s looking to bounce back from one of his worst outings of the season.

He gave up only four hits in that outing — all home runs — and couldn’t get out of the fifth inning as the Pirates fell to Washington 12-4.

“Especially against left-handers, the ball was just out over the plate,” Kuhl said after allowing six runs (four earned) over 4 2/3 innings. “I really wasn’t getting the ball in or up, some of the things you try to do.”

Kuhl has fared well against the Brewers over his career. He’s 2-0 with a 2.42 record including a 2.60 ERA in three starts at Miller Park.

He faced them three times last season, and won his only decision while holding the Brewers to four runs with 15 strikeouts in 13 2/3 innings.

The lone victory came July 17 in Milwaukee when he struck out seven and held the Brewers to a pair of runs over 5 2/3 innings in a 4-2 Pittsburgh victory.

The Brewers counter with right-hander Chase Anderson (3.38 ERA), who improved to 3-2 his last time out despite allowing four runs and walking four over 5 1/3 innings at Cincinnati on Tuesday.

Anderson went 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA in three starts against the Pirates in 2017 and is 6-2 with a 2.86 ERA in 11 career starts against Pittsburgh.