Thinking playoffs for much of the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates are now starting to move more towards the .500 mark than the postseason.
The Pirates look to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season on Saturday as they continue a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Pittsburgh has not had a winning season since 1992, but were 16 games over .500 on Aug. 8 and just 2 1/2 games back of first place in the NL Central. However, the Pirates have lost 11 of 15 since and now sit two games behind the second wild card spot in the NL.
The Pirates dropped a fourth straight game on Friday, falling 6-5 to the Brewers. Pittsburgh plated a pair of runs in the ninth to get within a run, but Kameron Loe relieved an ineffective John Axford for Milwaukee and struck out Gaby Sanchez swinging to end the game.
"It's a challenging sport that we play and tonight was one of those games," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. "It's a tough way to go down. You battle all night and come up just a little short. It seems like we've had that a lot lately."
Pittsburgh hasn't lost five straight since April 10-14.
Aramis Ramirez keyed Milwaukee's win with a three-run double in the seventh inning, while Corey Hart had three hits and drove in two runs. The Brewers have won a season high-tying four in a row for the first time since June 30- July 3.
Michael Fiers tied his career high with 10 strikeouts as he gave up three runs on five hits with two walks in 6 2/3 innings to get the win.
"I had some energy coming out there tonight and wanted to get to them early," said Fiers. "They have some good hitters over there and I wanted to keep the off balance as much as I could."
Milwaukee's Shaun Marcum is slated to make his first start since June 14 after missing time due to right elbow tightness. He went undefeated in four starts before landing on the disabled list, going 3-0 with a 2.30 earned run average.
The right-hander, who was activated from the 60-day DL on Friday, is 5-3 with a 3.39 ERA in 13 starts this season and returns to action following three minor league rehab starts. Marcum threw six innings on Monday, allowing a run.
Marcum, 30, beat the Pirates on June 2 with seven innings of one-run ball, leaving him 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA in five matchups.
Jeff Karstens counters for Pittsburgh and takes the hill for the first time since his club's last win, a 19-inning marathon with the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. He did not get a decision on that day, allowing two runs on just two hits over seven innings.
The 29-year-old righty is 4-3 with a 3.79 ERA in 13 outings this season and seeks his first ever win against the Brewers. He is 0-5 with a 3.83 ERA lifetime against them.
The Brewers and Pirates split six meetings prior to this series. Milwaukee had won 25 of the 33 encounters from 2010-11.