The Pittsburgh Pirates turn to A.J. Burnett Saturday evening in an attempt to even their three-game series versus the Milwaukee Brewers.
Burnett is leading the Pirates' staff with 15 victories, but has struggled over his last four starts. He is 1-2 with a 6.29 earned run average in that span and is coming off Monday's loss to the Chicago Cubs.
The right-hander allowed four runs -- three earned -- on seven hits and a walk while striking out just three over 5 2/3 frames. He fell to 15-5 with a 3.67 ERA in 24 starts this season.
"I wasn't able to have shutdown innings," Burnett stated.
Burnett, 35, is 2-3 with a 5.60 ERA lifetime versus the Brewers in seven starts. He has faced them just once this season and suffered a loss, touched for four runs over seven frames with seven strikeouts at Milwaukee on July 15.
Pittsburgh had a chance to grab sole possession of the NL's second wild card position, but dropped a 9-3 decision to Milwaukee, which jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back.
Pirates starter Jeff Karstens recorded just one out and was charged with four runs upon exiting the game with a right hip flexor strain. He had come out of his previous start with a groin issue.
"If we would have (thought Karstens wasn't ready) we wouldn't have started him," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was only about a three-pitch sequence when his fastball was only about 85 miles per hour."
Garrett Jones hit his 22nd home run of the season, but the Pirates lost for the seventh time in their last 10 games. They remained a half-game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the league's final playoff spot.
Corey Hart capped Milwaukee's big first inning with a two-run homer and Mark Rogers tossed 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball to get the win.
"His stuff was good, even when he first came up. Location has been his problem, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Rogers. "When he has location he's really done very well. Tonight he was really good with it."
The Brewers have won nine of their past 11 contests and turn tonight to Marco Estrada, who is coming off his first two wins of the season -- both against the Chicago Cubs.
The 29-year-old righty threw six scoreless innings of two-hit ball in a win at home on Aug. 21, then claimed a victory at Chicago on Monday after getting charged with three unearned runs on six hits and three walks in five frames of work. He struck out 17 in the two wins.
Estrada is 2-5 with a 4.02 ERA in 23 games (17 starts) this season while also going 2-0 with a 1.90 ERA in six lifetime encounters with the Pirates, three of those starts.
The Brewers have won six of 10 versus the Pirates this season.