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It's past the middle of June and the Milwaukee Brewers still are in first place in the National League Central, thanks to a powerful offense and a surprising pitching staff. The Brewers will try to break out the power bats against another division rival when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday for the opener of their four-game series.
Milwaukee had a streak of five straight games with at least five runs scored come to an end on Sunday but still managed a 2-1 win as Jimmy Nelson tossed a complete game while Hernan Perez and Manny Pina bashed solo home runs. The Brewers have not lost a series to a division foe since dropping two of three at Pittsburgh from May 5-7 and enter the week hot with wins in five of the last six. The Pirates (31-38) have not been as sharp of late, as they come in having dropped three of their last four to close out a 5-5 homestand. Pittsburgh will try to turn the tide behind ace Gerrit Cole, who goes up against Milwaukee veteran Matt Garza.
TV: 7:40 p.m. ET, ROOT Pittsburgh, FSN Wisconsin (Milwaukee)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Pirates RH Gerrit Cole (4-6, 4.54 ERA) vs. Brewers RH Matt Garza (3-2, 4.17)
Cole struggled through a terrible stretch of four starts in which he allowed a total of 23 runs over 19 1/3 innings but pulled out of it against Colorado on Tuesday. The former No. 1 overall pick held the NL West-leading Rockies to one run on three hits and three walks in seven innings. Cole enjoyed similar success against Milwaukee on May 6, when he yielded one run and two hits in seven frames but did not factor in the decision.
Garza has failed to complete six innings in any of his last four starts but recorded a win last time out at St. Louis. The Californian allowed four runs and five hits in five frames but received enough support from his offense to end a four-start winless streak. Garza's best effort may have come against Cole and the Pirates on May 6, when he surrendered one run and eight hits in seven innings without figuring in the decision.
1. Pirates 2B Josh Harrison is 2-for-17 with six strikeouts over his last four games.
2. Pina homered in each of his last two starts and is 7-for-16 in his last five contests.
3. Milwaukee LF Ryan Braun (calf) is cleared to play and expects to begin a rehab assignment soon.
PREDICTION: Pirates 6, Brewers 4