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Brewers being playoff prep against Pirates

The National League Central-champion Milwaukee Brewers will rival Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park.

The Brewers will get started in tonight's series opener with Shaun Marcum on the mound and he's 13-7 with a 3.31 earned run average in 32 starts. Marcum ended a personal two-game slide his last time out in Tuesday's 5-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field and held the hosts to a run and five hits with seven strikeouts over eight innings.

Marcum, a right-hander, is 3-4 in his past seven starts and owns a 1-1 mark to go along with a 1.31 ERA in three career starts against the Pirates. Pittsburgh beat Marcum the last time the two met in a 2-0 verdict on Aug. 24 at PNC Park.

Milwaukee is coming off a three-game sweep of the Florida Marlins and posted a 9-5 win Sunday in Brew City. Ryan Braun homered, Rickie Weeks went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI and George Kottaras drove in a pair of runs for the Brewers, who have won seven of nine games.

Chris Narveson allowed four runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings to pick up the win. Milwaukee took all seven games from the Marlins this year to sweep the season series for the first time since their first meeting in 1998.

"It's tough to pitch with that kind of lead," Narveson said. "You have to really focus. Sometimes games just get away from you in that type of situation."

The Brewers are still gunning for the National League's No. 2 seed and home- field advantage in the NL Division Series.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh had won three of four games before suffering a 5-4 loss versus Cincinnati on Sunday in the finale of a three-game series.

James McDonald started for the Pirates and yielded three runs -- one earned -- in five innings for the no-decision. Daniel Moskos gave up two runs in the sixth inning to absorb the loss. Chase d'Arnaud led the Pittsburgh offense with two hits and a pair of RBI.

"We've learned to battle in close games and that's going to help us down the road," said Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, who went 1-for-4 with an RBI.

Charlie Morton hopes to end his mediocre 2011 campaign with back-to-back wins when he takes the ball for the Pirates Monday night. Morton put the clamps on a personal four-game slide in Tuesday's 5-3 victory at Arizona and tossed six scoreless innings of three-hit ball. Morton improved to 10-10 in 28 starts and lowered his earned run average to 3.67.

Opposing hitters are batting .279 off of Morton, who is 7-5 in 15 starts on the road and 0-4 in five career starts against Milwaukee.

Milwaukee is 10-2 against the Pirates this season, including a 6-0 mark at Miller Park. It has won 12 in a row as the host in this series.