Brewers-Pirates Preview

The Milwaukee Brewers’ rotation has been among the best in baseball so far, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are certainly well aware of that.

Matt Garza, though, is still seeking his first victory.

The Brewers look to continue their early-season success against the Pirates while Garza attempts to beat them for the first time in almost three years Saturday night.

Milwaukee’s rotation compiled a 4.20 ERA last year – among the worst in the NL – but its starters have improved quite a bit with a 2.48 mark that’s among the majors’ best.

The Brewers (12-5) signed Garza (0-2, 3.43 ERA) to a four-year, $50 million contract to help in that area, but he owns the highest ERA among the starting staff and is the last one without a win.

He’ll now face the Pirates (8-9) for the first time with Milwaukee, and he’s 0-2 with a 5.14 ERA in three starts since last defeating them Aug. 3, 2011.

The Brewers have won four of five meetings with their NL Central rival behind a 1.85 ERA from the rotation.

Kyle Lohse continued that trend Friday, giving up one earned run while battling through 110 pitches in 6 1-3 innings of a 5-3 win. That came a day after the bullpen gave up nine runs in the final two innings of a 11-2 defeat in the opener of the four-game set.

Garza will try to avoid opening a season with three straight losing decisions for the first time since 2011 with the Chicago Cubs. The right-hander allowed a pair of homers in seven innings of Monday’s 4-0 loss to St. Louis. All four runs he gave up came via the long ball, including a three-run shot in the sixth.

"He kept us in the ballgame," manager Ron Roenicke told the team’s official website. "I didn’t think his stuff and command was as good as we’ve seen, but he battled."

The Pirates will counter Garza with Wandy Rodriguez (0-2, 7.31), who is facing Milwaukee for the first time since getting his most recent victory May 26. He allowed three runs in five innings of that 5-4 win, but only made two more starts before being shut down for the rest of the season with a forearm injury.

The left-hander is 0-4 with a 6.17 ERA in five starts since beating the Brewers 11 months ago, and his ERA through three starts is among the highest in baseball. He’s also surrendered six homers, while opponents are batting .303 off him.

"It’s a challenging time for him, but I’m not going to run to answers right away, because I’ve seen three outings and his velocity is down a tick," manager Clint Hurdle told the team’s official website.

Rodriguez had his worst performance in his latest outing, surrendering six runs and three homers in five innings while failing to get a decision in Monday’s 8-7 win at Cincinnati.

Rodriguez has made plenty of mistakes against Ryan Braun, who has a .383 average with eight doubles and four homers in 47 at-bats against him.

Braun, though, is 3 for 16 with five strikeouts over the past four games, and he hasn’t homered in nine since getting all three on the season in a 10-4 win at Philadelphia on April 8. He also compiled seven of his 10 RBIs in that contest, and hasn’t plated a run in seven straight games.

The Pirates may have Ike Davis in the lineup after acquiring him Friday from the New York Mets in exchange for a minor-league pitcher and a player to be named.

The first baseman had career highs of 32 homers and 90 RBIs with the Mets in 2012, but owns a .205 average with 10 homers and 38 RBIs since.