Preview: Brewers at Pirates

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates sit in the National League Central basement, while the Milwaukee Brewers are hot on the heels of the division-leading and defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs.

Yet, when they meet in a weekend series starting Friday at PNC Park, the Pirates and Brewers might very well have a common agitator, one that has plagued several teams this week: rain.

There is an 80 percent chance of rain in Pittsburgh on Friday night, a 70 percent chance Saturday night and a 60 percent chance Sunday.

The Pirates got in their game Thursday afternoon at Cincinnati, a 4-2 loss, although the start was delayed an hour. Milwaukee won 5-4 Thursday at St. Louis after having its game there rained out Wednesday and Thursday’s game moved from the afternoon to the evening.

Inclement weather has been one of the few things to stop the Milwaukee offense lately. The Brewers (15-14) have scored 57 runs in their past nine games. They pounded out 15 hits Thursday.

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“We swung the bats well,” manager Craig Counsell said. “We hit some balls really hard.”

That’s not inviting news for Pittsburgh (12-16), which has given up 28 runs over its past five games. In going 1-3 in Cincinnati, the Reds piled up 32 hits.

“We’re going to go face another ballclub in Milwaukee that’s swinging the bats from the offensive side,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

The three-game homestand against the Brewers is an oasis following a seven-game trip and coming before another seven away from home.

“You go unload the dirty clothes,” Hurdle said. “It’s always good to play at home. Three games. We’ll take it. Then we’ll move on.”

This will be the first of 19 meetings this season.

Pirates right-hander Chad Kuhl (1-2, 6.26 ERA) is scheduled to make his first start since he took a Dee Gordon liner off his right knee. That happened Sunday in the fifth inning against Miami. Kuhl initially writhed in pain before trying a few practice pitches and finally coming out of the game.

Kuhl later said he tried to hide the severity of the bruise, which left stitch imprints from the ball.

“It was almost like I was unstable. I picked my leg up and just wobbled,” Kuhl told MLB.com. “I told myself to stand, and I just couldn’t. I tried to trick (trainer Todd Tomczyk and manager Clint Hurdle), and it didn’t work.”

However, he was well on his way to recovery a day later.

“I think I’m good. All good,” he told MLB.com.

Kuhl is scheduled to make his sixth start. He got a no-decision Sunday and has yielded two earned runs or fewer in four of his five starts.

Against Milwaukee, Kuhl is 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA in two career starts, both last season. The win came Sept. 21 in a 4-1 Pittsburgh victory when he allowed one earned run in six innings.

The Brewers’ pitcher he faced that game was right-hander Jimmy Nelson, making Friday’s contest a rematch.

Nelson, who is 1-2 with a 5.34 ERA this season, is 5-3 with a 3.51 ERA in 10 career starts against Pittsburgh.

The rainout Wednesday gave Nelson an extra day between starts. In his past three starts, Nelson has been lit up for 16 runs (15 earned) on 25 hits in 15 2/3 innings. That includes five runs on 11 hits over five innings Saturday in the Brewers’ 11-3 loss to Atlanta.

“He struggled,” manager Craig Counsell told the Milwaukee Sentinel after that last start. “Pitches (were) up really; he left some fastballs up.

“He threw strikes, but he didn’t locate well, and he was up (in the strike zone), for me. There were a lot of mistakes.”