MLB Insiders: Milwaukee Brewers

James McDonald

The Pirates open a three-game series in Milwaukee on Friday night. Right-hander James McDonald will pitch for the Bucs. The Brewers will counter with right-hander Yovani Gallardo.

Impressive back-to-back seasons led many to believe that Yovani Gallardo was headed toward greatness in 2011.

A poor stretch of starts may have tempered some of that enthusiasm, but the right-hander looked every bit like an ace in his most recent outing.

Gallardo takes the mound looking to help the Milwaukee Brewers continue their domination of the Pittsburgh Pirates as the teams open a three-game set Friday night at Miller Park.

The Brewers (16-21), who surrendered their highest run total of the season in Wednesday's 13-6 loss to San Diego, have given up 16 runs total during a six-game winning streak over Pittsburgh (18-19) - including two wins in April during which they outscored the Pirates 10-1.

Milwaukee has also won six straight and 28 of 30 in the series at home, and the chances of seeing its success continue seem high with Gallardo (3-2, 5.11 ERA) on the hill.

Gallardo, who went a combined 27-19 with 404 strikeouts in 370 2-3 innings over 2009-10, started the year by going 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA in his first two starts but followed that up by compiling an 8.89 ERA over his next five.

The right-hander, though, seemed to turn a corner Saturday at St. Louis, carrying a no-hitting into the eighth inning and striking out six in a 4-0 win.

Gallardo, 6-1 with a 1.80 ERA in 10 career starts against Pittsburgh, hasn't allowed an earned run in his three most recent outings spanning 17 innings in the series, striking out 19.

Milwaukee's offense has also given Pittsburgh problems of late. Prince Fielder has 12 home runs and 25 RBIs in his last 26 games against the Pirates while Ryan Braun is batting .354 with six and 18, respectively, in his last 20.

Pittsburgh probable starter James McDonald (2-2, 5.65), though, could get a break, as Braun's status for this game is uncertain after he exited Wednesday with a left ankle contusion.

McDonald, meanwhile, has thrived in his last three starts, going 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA. The right-hander gave up three hits over six scoreless innings and struck out a career best-tying eight but didn't receive a decision during Sunday's 5-4 win over Houston.

He gave up six runs and seven hits in a 7-2 loss at Milwaukee on Aug. 27 - his only career start against the Brewers.

Manager Ron Roenicke and reliever Kameron Loe both learned lessons in a 13-6 loss Wednesday to San Diego.

Roenicke learned to stick with his first instinct in giving a relief pitcher the day off. Loe learned not to volunteer for duty if he's not up to it.

Roenicke had decided before the game that he wouldn't use the workhorse Loe in the series finale against San Diego. Loe had pitched in the first two games of the series, giving him a whopping 19 appearances for the season.

But, after the Brewers rallied to erase a 5-0 deficit and go ahead, 6-5, in the sixth inning, Loe got word to Roenicke that he felt OK and could pitch. So, after LaTroy Hawkins pitched the seventh, Roenicke summoned Loe in the eighth after Brad Hawpe singled off left-hander Mitch Stetter.

Loe showed up with nothing and was roughed up for four runs in a third of an inning. Loe and Mike McClendon surrendered eight hits and seven runs combined as the previously punch-less Padres scored eight times and ran away with a 13-6 victory.

"We were going to try to stay away from him, but he called down and said he felt good," Roenicke said. "He talked me into letting him in the game.

"It's about trying to win a game and your best guy saying he's OK. He tells me the more he throws, the better he is. But it is to the point where he's overused."

As for learning when to say he needs a day off, Loe said, "Yeah, I should know myself better than that. If they ask me, I say yes. It's kind of part of me. I'm ready to go if you ask me to.

"I'm upset with myself for not just going with what they said, and fighting them. But at the same time, it's kind of what got me here. It's a fine line."

NOTES, QUOTES

--SS Yuniesky Betancourt is known as a fly-ball hitter and that has been the case during the first six weeks of the season. Betancourt has five sacrifice flies, which leads the major league.

--The San Diego Padres entered play Wednesday with a .219 team batting average but that didn't stop them from pounding out 23 hits in a 13-6 victory over the Brewers. Milwaukee's pitchers had not allowed that many hits since Aug. 8, 2007, when Colorado also collected 23.

--1B Prince Fielder's two-run home run in the fifth inning Wednesday was the Brewers' first home run with a man on base since April 25. They had hit nine consecutive bases-empty shots, and 23 of their 35 home runs for the season have come with no runners on. Fielder, who turned 27 on Monday, became the 15th-youngest player to reach 200 career home runs.

--LHP Randy Wolf was hit so hard Wednesday by San Diego, he wondered if the hitters knew what was coming. In 3 1/3 innings, Wolf allowed 12 hits and five runs. "This game in particular, I really felt like no matter what I threw, it was going to get hit," Wolf said. "That's a very uncomfortable feeling out there. You almost have to trick them. I wish I had, like, a smoke cloud behind me to try to fool them."

--LF Ryan Braun was listed as day-to-day after bruising his left ankle smacking into the wall Wednesday chasing a double by Padres SS Jason Bartlett in the sixth inning. Manager Ron Roenicke said Braun could have stayed in the game if necessary. "If he had to go back out there, he would have," said Roenicke. "But it wasn't right."

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Walks by OF Mark Kotsay on Wednesday, the most by a Brewers hitter this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're still not playing good baseball. We just need to keep on working toward that. It's frustrating for all of us because we do care. It's just a matter of putting it together and being consistent." -- LHP Randy Wolf.

ROSTER REPORT
MEDICAL WATCH:

--LF Ryan Braun left the game on May 11 against San Diego after six innings because of a bruised ankle. He has listed as day-to-day and manager Ron Roenicke said Braun could have stayed in the game if necessary.

--RHP Brandon Kintzler (sore right triceps) hasn't pitched since May 4. He had an MRI exam on May 10 that revealed no structural damage.

--OF Nyjer Morgan (broken left middle finger) went on the 15-day disabled list May 6. He is expected to be out until late May or early June.

--INF/OF Erick Almonte (concussion) was struck in the face by a thrown ball during batting practice April 26. He became the first major league player to go on the newly formed seven-day disabled list for players with concussion symptoms. He might resume light workouts in mid-May.

--LHP Zach Braddock (sleep disorder) went on the 15-day disabled list May 3. He threw a bullpen session May 10, and he might go on a rehab assignment before returning to the Brewers. Braddock was scheduled to pitch May 12 on a minor league rehab assignment for Class A Wisconsin. He is not eligible to be activated until May 16.

--RHP Takashi Saito (left hamstring strain/left oblique strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 5 with the hamstring injury. He pitched April 28 for Class AAA Nashville on rehab assignment, but he exited the game with the oblique injury. He will be out until late May or early June.

--LHP Manny Parra (back tightness) missed most of spring training, and he went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. Parra made his first rehab appearance for low Class A Wisconsin on April 9, and he made five rehab appearances for Class AAA Nashville from April 12-28. On May 4, the Brewers announced that he has been diagnosed with a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow as well as a flexor tendon strain. He was to be shut down for a week, then go into a throwing program.

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