Pirates face Brewers in home opener

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With each three-game set accounting for five percent of this shortened season, the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates will each be looking for their first series win beginning Monday at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

The Brewers dropped two of three at Chicago over the weekend, including a 9-1 pasting by the Cubs on Sunday. The Pirates dropped two of three at St. Louis but are coming off a 5-1 win Sunday.

Milwaukee’s offense was uncharacteristically quiet most of the weekend. The Brewers were held to three hits Sunday, and for the series, Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura were a combined 2-for-25 — although one of those two hits was Yelich’s first homer.

For Pittsburgh, Sunday’s win was not only the first of the season but also the first of Derek Shelton’s big-league managerial career.

“Exhilarating,” Shelton told reporters after the game.

Now he and his club will be looking for an initial home win.

There is usually some prestige with being named the starter for the home opener, but Monday it is simply a matter of what works and who is available.

With Pirates starters Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer out for the season, left-hander Steven Brault is scheduled to face Milwaukee right-hander Adrian Houser in what could be an unusual situation.

Shelton hinted that it could be a piggyback situation, with Brault scheduled for a certain number of innings and someone else — right-hander Chad Kuhl is a good guess — set to follow.

“There’s a chance,” Shelton said.

“The piggyback thing is just a little bit weird, but we’ve all done it. In the minor leagues, it’s not that uncommon,” said Brault, who has divided his time with Pittsburgh between the rotation and as a long reliever.

“If that’s what we end up doing, it’s not going to be too weird. … I’ve done the bullpen thing; I’ve done the starting thing. So, I might as well try doing something that’s in the middle.”

Brault is 1-3 with a 3.94 ERA in 16 career games, 10 of them starts, against the Brewers, including 0-1 with a 3.51 ERA in five starts last season.

Milwaukee is in a situation where piggybacking might also be in play, in its case because of a glut of potential starters.

Houser emerged as a starter last year, when he went 6-7 with a 3.72 ERA in 35 games, 18 of them starts during two stints with the Brewers. But there could be some pressure on him to perform to maintain that spot in the rotation.

Eric Lauer was activated off the COVID-19 related injury list Sunday and came out the bullpen to pitch 2 2/3 scoreless, one-hit innings with six strikeouts. In addition, left-hander Brett Anderson is on the 10-day IL because of a blister on the index finger of his pitching hand and could have an impact when he returns.

“I see them as pitching a lot of innings,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. “I don’t necessarily see it as competition. We’re going to have to pick a guy to start. That may change from time to time — who starts the game and who comes in next or whatever.

“I think our strength is that we have that number and we have enough guys that are different, lefties and righties, where it can help us throughout the course of the game and it can take some of the pressure off some of those middle innings.”

Houser is 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in four career games against the Pirates. In his only start against Pittsburgh, July 6, 2019, he gave up five runs and seven hits in four innings of a 12-2 loss at PNC Park.

–Field Level Media

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