|Brewers look to hold off pesky Pirates|
If not for the pesky Pittsburgh Pirates, the Milwaukee Brewers might be leading the National League Central, or at least running neck-and-neck with the first-place Chicago Cubs.
The Brewers (87-66) sit second, 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs, in the division and hold the top NL wildcard spot, three games ahead of St. Louis.
But they are just 5-11 against the also-ran Pirates (77-74) going into a three-game weekend series against Pittsburgh at PNC Park.
Overall, Milwaukee has won two of its past three games.
"We feel like we're going the right way," Milwaukee first baseman Jesus Aguilar said. "We've got a lot of things to do."
After the weekend, the Brewers have a series at St. Louis looming.
"We've got nine games to go. We've got a ways to go," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "There's plenty of baseball left. There's going to be some great moments, there's going to be some tough moments. That's still ahead of us.
"There's a lot left to happen, and I think you're just open to it and ready for it to happen. We've put ourselves in a great position to enjoy the last 10 days of the season."
Pittsburgh has won five straight games, including most recently a sweep of Kansas City with three one-run games, and needs to win five of its remaining 11 in its quest to finish above .500.
"We're all pleased," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the team's play recently, which includes winning 11 of the past 14. "You play the game to win the game, and the games matter."
Last weekend, the Pirates won two of three in Milwaukee.
"We continue to battle," Pirates left fielder Corey Dickerson told AT&T Sportsnet. "The pitchers are starting off throwing strikes and keeping us in the game. We're doing enough to keep us in the game and win the game late or win the game early."
Pittsburgh is winning with a combination of veterans and recent call-ups, offering hope for not only a strong finish but carryover to next year.
"It shows a young team can be consistent," Dickerson said. "A few more pieces, a few more things go right here and there, and you never know where we could be. We have high expectations."
In the series opener Friday, Milwaukee right-hander Jhoulys Chac'n (14-8, 3.54 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh righty Ivan Nova (9-9, 4.07 ERA).
Chacin will be making his team-leading and career-high 33rd start of the season, sixth against the Pirates. He is 0-3 with a 2.51 ERA in his first five 2018 starts against Pittsburgh.
He comes in on a three-start losing streak overall, with a 3.68 ERA in those games.
Nova is looking for three straight wins for first time this season. He has allowed just one run in 12 innings of work in his past two starts, including a 3-1 win Saturday at Milwaukee.
"You want to finish (the season) strong, no matter who you're facing," Nova said after the win Saturday.
Overall, Nova is 3-2 with a 2.81 ERA in seven career starts against the Brewers.