Pirates search for answers against Brewers

The Pittsburgh Pirates hope to avoid falling to .500 on Wednesday when they continue a three-game series with the surging Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park.

The Pirates were blanked in the opener of this set on Tuesday, as Norichika Aoki and Jean Segura each drove in two runs and Milwaukee won, 6-0. Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy also drove in a run each for the Brewers, who have won three straight.

Milwaukee still sits 2 1/2 games back of St. Louis for the final wild card spot in the National League as the Cardinals beat the Astros on Tuesday.

Yovani Gallardo (16-8) continued his winning ways as he pitched his 10th straight start without losing, winning eight of those games. On Tuesday, he gave up just two hits with four walks and six strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.

"My command was off the first couple of innings," said Gallardo. "I kept leaving pitches over the plate, but I got away with it. After that, I settled down and got on track."

A.J. Burnett (15-8) dropped a fourth straight decision, giving up two runs on seven hits in six innings for the Pirates, who fell 3 1/2 games back of the wild card spot after losing for the ninth time in their past 11 games.

"I think he fought a lot early because he threw a bunch of pitches early," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle about Burnett. "Then he kept us in the ball game and kept us in the contest the whole time."

The Pirates, of course, haven't finished with a winning record since 1992, but haven't been at .500 since they were 26-26 back on June 2.

Heading to the hill for the Brewers on Wednesday will be righty Marco Estrada, who was terrific his last time out. Estrada, though, hasn't pitched since Sept. 11 when he held the Atlanta Braves to four hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings to run his record to 3-6, while lowering his ERA to 3.77.

Estrada has faced the Pirates seven times (4 starts) and is 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA.

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, will rely on rookie Kyle McPherson, who gets his first major league start in place of ineffective righty James McDonald.

McPherson, who has pitched to a 1.54 ERA in seven relief appearances, was 3-6 with a 3.22 ERA in 12 minor league starts this season.

"There are many people who speak highly of him throughout our organization," Hurdle said. "We'd like to see what he can do."

Milwaukee has won nine of the first 13 games between the teams this season, including a sweep of a three-game set at Miller Park from Aug. 31-Sept. 2. The Brewers won 12 of 15 games in the 2011 series.