Preview: Brewers at Pirates

The Milwaukee Brewers gave their pitching staff a little bit of a new look Thursday during a busy stretch heading into the All-Star break, with less than stellar results.

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The Brewers (55-39) opened a five-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates (44-49) at PNC Park Thursday with a 6-3 loss. Milwaukee was coming off a series at Miami that included a couple extra-inning games and taxed the bullpen.

In addition to activating left-hander Wade Miley from the disabled list to start Thursday — he took the loss — Milwaukee recalled right-handed relievers Alec Asher and Adrian Houser from Triple-A Colorado Springs. Houser gave up four runs in two innings, while Asher pitched a perfect inning.

“They were on All-Star break (in Triple-A), and we need fresh pitchers,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Asher and Houser, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We looked at what we need for this series. What has happened in the last 10 games, and especially in the Miami series, we’ve covered a lot of innings out of the bullpen.”

The Brewers optioned right-handers Freddy Peralta and Jorge Lopez and infielder Nate Orf to Colorado Springs.

In addition, Counsell said left-hander Brent Suter (left forearm strain) could start one of the games in Saturday’s doubleheader. Suter told the Journal Sentinel his bullpen session Wednesday went well.

The Pirates could use a strong showing in the series to avoid falling completely into an abyss in the NL Central. They have won four of five following a five-game losing streak and are 10 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers.

Friday, Brewers right-hander Junior Guerra (6-5, 2.79 ERA) is scheduled to face Pirates righty Nick Kingham (3-4, 4.26).

Guerra has won three straight starts with a 2.65 ERA in that span.

He got into several jams in his last start, a 10-3 win Sunday against Atlanta. First baseman Jesus Aguilar started two double plays, among other defensive help the right-hander got as he gave up just one run in six innings despite allowing seven hits and three walks.

“I credit (his teammates) for making him work a little bit,” Counsell said. “But he still kept it together and made big pitches with guys on base early in the game.”

Guerra is 1-1 with a 3.44 ERA in eight career games, six of them starts, against Pittsburgh. He took the loss in his only start against the Pirates this season, allowing six hits and five runs over five innings in a 6-4 defeat on May 4.

He is 0-0 with a 2.81 ERA in four career games, three starts, at PNC Park.

Kingham will be looking to build on his win Sunday that ended a three-start losing streak. Against the Phillies, the rookie gave up one run and four hits in six innings, with five strikeouts and one walk in a 4-1 win.

That win was an important one for Pittsburgh, because it snapped the five-game losing streak. Kingham didn’t just provide a quality start; he got his first major league hit, a two-run double.

“It was a good day for me,” Kingham said. “I’m happy with how things came out. I got lucky and hit one. It was good. It was fun. On the mound, I felt like I got into a good rhythm.”

Kingham had not had an extra-base hit in the minor leagues since 2016.

“We laughed when we came in and congratulated him,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He ‘Little-Leagued’ them. He pitched and hit. Doesn’t happen very often where a guy can go out and Little League them.”

One of Kingham’s big league wins came in that May 4 game against Guerra and the Brewers. Kingham allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings and struck out seven in the victory.