Oh, no, not them again.
The Milwaukee Brewers, fresh off a three-game sweep of the Pirates last week at Miller Park that extended their winning streak against the Pirates to 15, will visit Pittsburgh tonight for a -- mercifully? -- brief two-game set.
It is safe to say the Pirates, losers of 15 in a row to this opponent, are looking forward to it.
"No question," Ian Snell, the starter tomorrow, said. "We should have beaten them at least twice up at their place, and we know that. But they're a good team. You can't deny that. I think we're better than we've shown against them, though."
"I don't think it's so much about the streak," manager John Russell said. "That's not what we're thinking about. I don't hear anyone in here talking about it. We just need to win games, and that's a team in the division that we need to beat."
Surely, though, there is more to it, especially given the fuss kicked up when Jeff Karstens hit Milwaukee's Ryan Braun with a pitch last Monday, the Brewers retaliated -- or not -- by plunking three Pirates the next night. Along the way, Braun repeatedly complained about being hit, going so far as to warn Bud Selig, Major League Baseball's commissioner, to pay close attention to future meetings.
"Yeah, I'm sure," outfielder Eric Hinske, one of the Pirates hit that Tuesday, said. "How many people were hit in that series? I'm sure there's some bad blood there somewhere."
Snell struck out Braun three times Wednesday, then mildly criticized Braun for going public with his complaints.
"I don't think there's bad blood," Snell said yesterday. "I've got nothing against Braun or anybody on that team. He said what he said, I said something, and I hope everyone takes it in perspective. Things get said in the heat of the moment. I've got a lot of respect for Braun."
Karstens plans to appeal the fine issued by MLB for hitting Braun, maintaining -- as he has all along -- that he had no intent.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington yesterday defended Karstens and emphasized that, contrary to one of Braun's charges, Russell did not order Karstens to hit Braun: "John's not the type to order people to head-hunt. I can certainly understand Ryan's perspective, getting hit right after a home run. But Jeff is adamant that he didn't mean to hit him. Jeff hasn't had pinpoint control most of the year."
Of the issue as a whole, Huntington said, "Our hope is that it will die."
One development that might help: Braun sat out Milwaukee's game yesterday against the Arizona Diamondbacks because of a stiff back and is considered day-to-day.
• Shortstop Jack Wilson (sprained finger) took his first batting practice -- a few swings indoors -- since going on the disabled list last week. Fielding is his bigger issue. He is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, and that appears on target.
• Reliever Craig Hansen (upper back spasms) had his scheduled throwing session but still will have "a relatively extended rehabilitation session," Huntington said. He is eligible to come off the disabled list Tuesday.
• Starter Phil Dumatrait's weeklong shutdown to renewed shoulder discomfort should end early this week with a pitching session in extended spring. He will need two lengthy sessions before getting cleared for a minor league rehabilitation assignment, Huntington said.
• Daniel McCutchen, one of the Pirates' top pitching prospects at Class AAA Indianapolis, will miss at least one start because of a strained groin.