Pirates' woes in Miller Park could extend slide


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The Pirates' struggles at Miller Park are well documented.

Miller Park has been, as many fans lament with heavy frustration, a house of horrors through the years. The Pirates have not played well in the shadow of Bernie's slide, going 13-53 in Milwaukee since 2007.

This weekend the Pirates can seize a prime opportunity to gain ground in the National League Central after falling six games behind Milwaukee. Or they can make the deficit larger.

"The main thing here is for us to play better -- collectively, each guy. It doesn't need to get any deeper than that," said manager Clint Hurdle before his team finally broke a seven-game losing skid Wednesday night with a 3-2 walk-off win against the Atlanta Braves.

Only a week ago, the Pirates were right in the hunt, but the Brewers have gone 6-4 in their past 10 and the Pirates just 3-7.

The series marks the start of 15 consecutive games against division opponents, potentially a season-defining stretch, though the players insist they are approaching it one game at a time.

"We play for the now. We play for today. We're not looking to anything else," said first baseman Gaby Sanchez. "We play the first game against the Brewers, then after that it's the next game.

"We're taking it a game at a time, we're not trying to get ahead of ourselves. [If] you do that, you start putting pressure on, and we don't want to do that."

The Pirates are two games back from the second wild-card spot, but Hurdle said his team is still gunning for the division.

"I don't know what every guy or coach is thinking or looking at. I know this, you win your division, you get in," Hurdle said. "That's where I'm going to stay until that's not in play anymore. Then we'll move onto Plan B. And Plan B's complicated."

The Pirates hope Andrew McCutchen reignites, as he is 0 for 8 since his return from the disabled list. They will also hope hot streaks continue from Travis Snider, who extended his hitting streak to 11 Wednesday, and Jordy Mercer, who is batting .333 in August.

Jeff Locke (4-3, 3.73 ERA) will pitch tonight against right-hander Yovani Gallardo (8-6, 3.32 ERA), then Edinson Volquez (10-7, 3.58 ERA) will pitch Saturday against right-hander Wily Peralta (15-7, 3.27 ERA).

Vance Worley (5-3, 2.92 ERA) will take the mound Sunday against Mike Fiers (3-1, 1.29 ERA) to wrap up the series.

The Pirates have endured several setbacks this season, so keeping the faith is no issue, Sanchez said.

"[Coming back] not hard at all. We've been doing it all season, so it's kind of a part of us now," he said. "We know when we're down late we can still come back, we can still do some special things especially with the type of ballclub we have.

"One inning can turn into a big inning and transpire from there. For us, we don't ever feel like we're down, we can still come back and win the ballgame."

Jenn Menendez jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.


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