Brewers look to solve the Pirates

MILWAUKEE — With just over two weeks left in the regular season, the Milwaukee Brewers are still nipping at the Chicago Cubs’ heels in the National League Central race while trying to protect their wild-card lead from the resurgent Los Angeles Dodgers.

But if the Brewers are going to snap a seven-year postseason drought, they’ll need to figure out the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“They’ve got good arms, guys who throw hard with power stuff,” Milwaukee outfielder Christian Yelich said. “Any time you face them, you know it could be a tough night, a battle. You’ve got to do what you can.”

After opening the series with a 7-4 victory Friday night, the Brewers couldn’t do much Saturday in Game 2 of the series, mustering just one run in a 3-1 loss to the Pirates. It was the Brewers’ 10th loss in 15 meetings with the Pirates this season and the ninth time Pittsburgh’s pitching held Milwaukee to three or fewer runs.

“They’ve been pitching-based for the last couple of years,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “You figure that’s the game you’re going to be in when you play these guys.”

The loss left the Brewers 2 1/2 games back of the Cubs in the NL Central but still holding onto a three-game lead over the Dodgers for the top wild-card spot. The Brewers will try to pad that lead while also chipping into Chicago’s on Sunday when they wrap up the series against Trevor Williams.

Williams gave up four runs in five innings against St. Louis his last time out, equaling the total runs he’d allowed in his previous nine starts.

“I’m just thankful I’m not pitching against the Cardinals again for the rest of the year,'” Williams said. “‘They’re a great ballclub and I wish them nothing but success going into October.”

He has fared a little better against Milwaukee, posting a 2.18 ERA in four career appearances, including three starts. He threw seven shutout innings against the Brewers on June 18, allowing one hit and striking out seven.

Williams followed that gem with three rough outings, allowing 12 runs in 13 innings but has been one of the best pitchers in the National League ever since, posting an 0.66 ERA in a nine-start stretch leading up to the Monday night game against the Cardinals.

“It’s been really a strong stretch,”‘ Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.

The Brewers look to clinch their ninth consecutive series behind right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who has a 2.28 ERA in four outings against the Pirates this season. That success was the reason Counsell flipped Chacin and Wade Miley in his rotation.

Miley has struggled against Pittsburgh, posting a 4.82 ERA in two starts, and will now start Monday against the Cincinnati Reds, a team he held to one run in 7 1/3 innings on Aug. 30.

“Like I’ve always said, this is something I really wanted when I signed here — to pitch in meaningful games,” Chacin said. “Hopefully in the next couple weeks, we can celebrate making the playoffs. We have 15 more games, but right now it feels like we’ve earned our way. We’re finishing the season strong and in a good way, so I think that’s going to push us more in the playoffs.”