The Pittsburgh Pirates turn their sights back on a wild card spot on Friday evening when they begin a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Having not made the playoffs since their last winning season in 1992, the Pirates were stuck in a 1-6 slump before winning the final two contests of a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals by shutout.
Wednesday's 5-0 victory pulled Pittsburgh to within a game of St. Louis for the NL's second wild card position and the idle Pirates moved another half- game closer when the Cardinals lost to the Washington Nationals on Thursday.
Pedro Alvarez keyed Pittsburgh's two wins. He homered twice in a 9-0 win on Tuesday and added a three-run blast in Wednesday's rubber match, while Wandy Rodriguez picked up his first win as a Pirates starter by yielding just three hits over six innings.
"We're going to battle. These guys trust each other and play hard for one another," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Hurdle hopes that Jeff Karstens can duplicate his previous outing tonight against the Milwaukee Brewers, a 4-0 win on Saturday in which the righty scattered seven hits over seven-plus innings.
Karstens, though, did have to exit with a strained groin after allowing a pair of hits to begin the eighth.
"He had some great location and command with his pitches tonight," said Hurdle about Karstens. "He was able to keep most of them in check before leaving."
The 29-year-old appears ready to go in this opener after logging his first career win over the Brewers, moving to 1-5 with a 3.38 ERA against them in 12 games (9 starts). He is 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 14 outings this season.
Milwaukee starter Mark Rogers is also coming off a victory over his opponent, having bested the Pirates on Sunday.
Rogers followed up the first victory of his career by holding Pittsburgh scoreless over five innings, scattering three hits and three walks with five strikeouts in a 7-0 win.
The 26-year-old righty is 2-1 with a 4.28 ERA following his first ever meeting with the Pirates.
Milwaukee had a four-game win streak snapped with Thursday's 12-11 loss to the Chicago Cubs. The Brewers' bullpen blew leads of 9-3 and 11-9, with the Cubs winning on Alfonso Soriano's run-scoring single in the bottom of the ninth.
Jonathan Lucroy clubbed a grand slam and knocked in seven runs overall, while Rickie Weeks had his first career five-hit game and scored four times.
"It's kind of tough to be part of," Lucroy said. "Fun game offensively, but defensively, just didn't cut it."
Ryan Braun and Cody Ransom each homered in the setback.
The Brewers have won five of nine versus the Pirates this season.