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McDonald, Pirates hope to avoid getting swept in Milwaukee

Pittsburgh starter James McDonald has had trouble putting together two solid outings in a row over the last month and a half. The Pirates would love for their right-hander to get on a run similar to Milwaukee Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo.

McDonald and the Pirates look to salvage their final contest of a three-game series against the Brewers, but go up against Gallardo and his six-start winning streak on Sunday afternoon.

The 27-year-old McDonald has won two of his last three starts, hurling scoreless outings in both victories but giving up four runs over just five frames of a loss in between.

McDonald, who was pounded for seven runs in a no-decision four starts ago, is coming off a big win over the St. Louis Cardinals, one that saw him allow just two hits over seven scoreless innings while striking out six. He improved to 12-6 with a 3.57 earned run average in 26 starts this season.

The 6-foot-5 hurler was tagged for five runs -- four earned -- in his last meeting with the Brewers on July 13, getting a no-decision to leave him 1-2 with a 5.33 ERA in eight lifetime encounters with Milwaukee, including four starts.

Consistency hasn't been a problem for Gallardo since his last loss on July 26. He has pitched to a 1.90 ERA over his six-game winning streak, moving his season numbers to 14-8 with a 3.52 ERA in 27 games.

The right-hander has gone at least seven innings in each outing of his winning streak and enters this start after back-to-back wins against the Chicago Cubs. He picked up a road win on Tuesday, yielding a single run over seven frames.

Gallardo, 26, dominated the Pirates at home on July 15, scattering a run over seven frames while striking out 14. It was another solid effort in this matchup as Gallardo is 8-2 with a 2.14 ERA in his career against the Pirates.

Milwaukee hung a 3-2 defeat on Pittsburgh in Saturday's meeting, getting a walk-off homer from Corey Hart, who crushed the second pitch he saw from Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan over the left-field fence.

"I was hanging breaking balls," Hanrahan said. "Poorly executed. The guys battled their butts off and I come in and throw two pitches and the game's over."

The Brewers won for the 13th time in their past 15 home games and are 10-2 over their last 12 overall.

Pedro Alvarez hit a second-inning solo homer for Pittsburgh and Andrew McCutchen's single to center scored a run to tie the game in the eighth. However, the Pirates lost for the eighth time in 10 games, but did remain 1 1/2 games back of the Cardinals for the NL's second wild card spot.

The Brewers have won seven of 11 versus the Pirates this season.