Pedro Alvarez is trying to keep the Pittsburgh Pirates on track and boost their chances of capturing a playoff berth. So are the Pirates' pitchers.
Pittsburgh will try to extend its scoreless streak during Friday night's series opener in Milwaukee with help from Jeff Karstens, who helped shut out the Brewers last weekend.
Alvarez hit three homers and drove in seven runs as the Pirates (70-60) won their final two games earlier this week against St. Louis, but they have only three victories in nine games.
Alvarez, who has a career-high 26 homers, is also 11 for 19 (.579) over his last five games.
The Pirates' staff will try to help their team keep rolling by building on their back-to-back shutouts against the Cardinals.
Pittsburgh's 21-inning scoreless streak is its longest since July 17-19, 2009, and it hasn't surpassed that mark since June 30-July 2, 1997, when the club held the Chicago White Sox without a run for 25 consecutive innings.
Karstens (5-3, 3.47 ERA) will try to keep that streak going with another superb outing against Milwaukee (62-68). The right-hander scattered seven hits and walked none during a 4-0 victory Saturday at PNC Park but left after tweaking his right groin in the eighth inning.
That loss was one of only two the Brewers have suffered in their last 10 games. The other came Thursday in a wild 12-11 loss at Chicago that snapped a four-game win streak.
Milwaukee blew a six-run advantage in the sixth inning but regained the lead on Cody Ransom's solo homer in the seventh only to give up three runs in the ninth. Jonathan Lucroy matched a career high with seven RBIs, including a grand slam, and Rickie Weeks had a career-best five hits.
Mark Rogers (2-1, 4.28) will try to help his team bounce back by earning a third straight win and his second in as many starts against Pittsburgh, which is 11-16 in August. The right-hander gave up three hits over five innings during a 7-0 win Sunday, his only matchup versus the Pirates in his brief career.
Milwaukee won two of three during that series at PNC Park but has split its six home matchups after winning 36 of the previous 39 at Miller Park over Pittsburgh.
Brewers officials and fans have had Aug. 31 circled on their calendars for some time, and that day finally arrives on Friday.
You know that any day in which Bob Uecker is the center of attention has a chance to be epic.
In an afternoon ceremony at Miller Park's Home Plate Plaza, the Brewers will unveil a long overdue statue of their Hall of Fame radio voice. Uecker's statue will join those of Robin Yount, Hank Aaron and Bud Selig, forming a sort of Mt. Rushmore of Milwaukee baseball.
The ceremony will be emceed by NBC Sports host and broadcaster Bob Costas, a longtime friend of Uecker. Many other luminaries are expected to be in attendance at what promises to be an entertaining event.
"It's a wonderful thing to have happen," Uecker said Thursday. "I'm going to get a chance to see a lot of old friends. I talked to Bob Costas this morning and he's all fired up about doing the emceeing.
"I'm really looking forward to it. For all those guys to come there is special to me. They told me there's going to be a lot of stuff."
Uecker's bronze statue depicts him standing with hands in pockets. He specifically requested not to be holding a microphone because he thought that would look contrived while in a standing pose. And having him seated at a desk behind a mic just doesn't make for a good statue.
"And I didn't want it with a bat because of where they wanted to put it," he added. "It's where I had it most of my career."
That's the kind of stuff that promises to make the statue unveiling a day to remember.
C Jonathan Lucroy drove in seven runs in a game for the second time this season, again tying the club record for RBI in a game. Lucroy became the first player in franchise history to drive in seven runs in a game twice.
3B Aramis Ramirez was having a big road trip to Pittsburgh and Chicago, batting .400 with three homers and 10 RBI, but sat out the series finale against the Cubs. Despite having an injection a few weeks back, Ramirez remains bothered by inflammation in his left wrist.
RHP Mike Fiers was pulled in the eighth inning Wednesday night despite having thrown only 87 pitches. That's nothing new for the Brewers' pitching staff, which has no complete games this season and none since the fifth game of 2011, when RHP Yovani Gallardo shut out Atlanta 1-0.
RHP Shaun Marcum left his start Thursday in Chicago after four innings with cramping in his right calf. It was Marcum's second start since spending two months on the DL with an elbow issue.
2B Rickie Weeks established a career high Thursday with five hits in the Brewers' 12-11 loss in Chicago. In the first six games on the trip that began in Pittsburgh, Weeks had a total of four hits.
By The Numbers:
13—Victories by the Brewers over the Cubs in 17 meetings this season.
Quote To Note:
"I think walks beat us today, for sure."
—Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, after Brewers pitchers issued 11 walks in a 12-11 loss to the Cubs, six of which came around to score.