The Pirates look to avoid their 16th straight loss at Miller Park on Monday night when they open a three-game series against the NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers.
Brewers manager Ken Macha has to feel especially confident with Braden Looper (2-0, 2.12 ERA) taking the mound. Looper has been Milwaukee’s most consistent starter, having allowed only four runs in 17 innings over his first three starts, all Brewers victories.
Looper is 3-3 with a 3.02 ERA lifetime against the Pirates, including 3-2 with a 3.64 ERA in five starts.
He’ll match up against Pittsburgh right-hander Jeff Karstens (1-0, 3.60), who held Florida to one run and three hits in six innings of a 3-2 victory Tuesday. Karstens was 0-1 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts against the Brewers last season.
Because right-handers Braden Looper, Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan have similar pitching styles, Macha has encouraged those three veterans to share information with each other.
“Those three guys have similar stuff,” said Macha. “It’s nice to have the veteran guys listen to each other.”
On Thursday, Looper sat in on Bush’s pre-game preparation in Philadelphia. Looper had pitched six shutout innings the day before against the Phillies, and Bush went out and took a no-hitter into the eighth inning.
Macha said he’d use the system again in the upcoming series against Pittsburgh, bringing Monday starter Looper into the Tuesday’s pre-game meeting with Bush.
“We’ll see how it goes,” said Macha. “I’m still in the learning phase with this team and these pitchers.”
Macha said it did not make sense for righty Yovani Gallardo to sit in with any of those three veterans because his stuff is so different. Ditto for lefty Manny Parra.
Astros 3, Brewers 2: The Brewers’ four-game winning streak came to an end because, unlike the first two games of the series, they couldn’t come up with the big hit. The big opportunity came in the seventh when the Brewers put two on with no outs against Houston reliever Doug Brocail. But red-hot Ryan Braun fouled out, Prince Fielder struck out, and after Mike Cameron walked to load the bases, Brad Nelson took a called third strike. LHP Manny Parra was charged with just one earned run in five innings but was charged with the loss to drop to 0-4 with a 6.52 ERA. The Brewers still went 5-4 on the three-city swing, winning their final two series in Philadelphia and Houston.
• LF Ryan Braun finally cooled off on the last day of the Brewers’ nine-game trip to New York, Philadelphia and Houston. Before going 0 for 4 in the series finale in Houston, Braun was batting .516 (16 for 31) on the trip with four home runs and 11 RBI. He had a five-hit game Tuesday in Philadelphia and a four-hit game Saturday in Houston.
• RHP Mark DiFelice was a starting pitcher in recent years in the minors but appears to have found a home in the Brewers’ bullpen. In nine relief outings, he has compiled a 0.90 ERA and has stranded seven of the 10 runners he has inherited.
By The Numbers: 13—multi-home run games for Prince Fielder after he socked two out of the park Saturday night in a 9-8, 11-inning victory in Houston.
Quote To Note: “I was going into him. I ain’t about no hook-sliding.”—CF Mike Cameron, after a collision at home plate Friday night in Houston put Astros catcher Humberto Quintero on the disabled list with a shoulder injury.
The starting rotation, a chief area of concern at the start of the season, stabilized behind the work of RHP Braden Looper and RHP Dave Bush. With nine quality starts in 10 outings, the starters were more than doing their part. And with closer Trevor Hoffman off the disabled list, the bullpen figures to fall into place now, too. That leaves it to the hitters, and with Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder perking up, the lineup is starting to look like the force many expected coming out of spring training.
• RHP Trevor Hoffman was activated from the 15-day disabled list (oblique strain) and will take over the role as closer, as originally planned when he signed a $6 million free-agent deal over the off-season. Hoffman made two one-inning relief appearances for Triple-A Nashville, allowing two hits and one run each time. In Hoffman’s absence, the Brewers’ bullpen was charged with six blown saves, most in the majors. The Brewers were charged with two blown saves Saturday night in their 9-8, 11-inning victory in Houston, with RHP Todd Coffey losing a lead in the eighth inning and RHP Carlos Villanueva (unearned run) doing likewise in the ninth.
• LHP R.J. Swindle was optioned to Triple-A Nashville to make room on the roster for the addition of RHP Trevor Hoffman from the disabled list. Swindle made one appearance in the week he was with the Brewers, allowing two hits and one run in 1 1/3 innings Tuesday in Philadelphia. With Swindle’s demotion, the Brewers go back to having just one left-hander in the bullpen, Mitch Stetter.
• OF Brad Nelson got his first start of the season Sunday as manager Ken Macha gave RF Corey Hart a rest. Nelson was 0-for-8 as a pinch-hitter and was unable to break through as a starter, going 0-for-4 and leaving five runners on base.
RHP Trevor Hoffman (right oblique strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 27. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Nashville on April 21, and he was activated April 26.
RHP David Riske (right elbow tightness) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 10. He will attempt to rehab the elbow through mid-May, but if he is unsuccessful, he might need Tommy John surgery.