MILWAUKEE BREWERS (81-70)
at PITTSBURGH PIRATES (68-83)
First pitch: Wednesday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Line: N/A, Total: N/A
The Brewers will be hoping to keep their playoff chances alive with a win over the Pirates on Wednesday.
Milwaukee is currently trailing Chicago by 3.5 games in the NL Central, but the good news is that the Brewers face the Pirates on Wednesday and then play a four-game set against the Cubs. If they can take care of their business tonight then they’ll have a good chance of evening things up in the standings by the end of the week. A series victory over Chicago would be monumental at this point in the season, but Milwaukee needs to maintain its focus here. This is a very winnable game that also counts in the standings, so the Brewers can’t get caught thinking only about the Cubs. The Pirates, meanwhile, have been one of the worst teams in baseball over the past few months. They once seemed like a potential playoff contender, but they have really tailed off recently. And they don’t have much to play for at this point either. The starters in this Wednesday night matchup are set to be RHP Aaron Wilkerson for Milwaukee and LHP Steven Brault (1-0, 4.38 ERA, 15 K) for Pittsburgh. This is going to be Wilkerson’s first start of the season, so we really don’t know what we’re going to get with him. Brault, meanwhile, is just now becoming a mainstay in the Pittsburgh rotation. He’s a talented guy, so the Brewers could be in trouble if he is on here.
The Brewers desperately need a victory on Wednesday, so they’re going to need a big performance from Wilkerson here. The righty has only appeared in one game for Milwaukee this season, throwing one shutout inning against Miami on Sep. 15. This is a much bigger spot, and this will also be the first start of the 28-year-old’s career. If he can turn in four or five innings of solid pitching then the Brewers would have to be ecstatic with him. On offense, it’s going to be up to guys like 3B Travis Shaw, OF Domingo Santana and OF Ryan Braun to contribute here. All three of them have been remarkable this season, as each is batting just around the .280 mark with a combined 73 homers and 223 RBI. If the three of them can produce at the plate on Wednesday then that would be big for this team. Santana is definitely a guy that should be able to help out there, as he has been better against lefties this season. Santana is hitting .286 against southpaws, as opposed to .277 against righties.
The Pirates are strictly playing to spoil their opponent’s seasons at this point and they have not been doing a good job of that either. Pittsburgh has lost seven straight and nine of its past 10 coming into this one, so the only thing the club has been doing is helping its opponents get into the win column. That could, however, change a bit on Wednesday, as Brault has been one of their best pitchers over the past few weeks. The lefty was dominant in his most recent outing, allowing no earned runs in six innings of work. He struck out six batters in that game and walked only one. If he has similar stuff on Wednesday then the Pirates just might earn a victory. Offensively, it’ll be OF Andrew McCutchen (.275 BA, 26 HR, 79 RBI) that will be counted on to lead this team. McCutchen has been Pittsburgh’s best hitter all season, which has truly been one of the only bright spots this season. The team will need him to be at his best next year, so it’d be good for him to keep playing well until the end of the season.