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Pirates try to make up ground on Brewers

( - If the Pittsburgh Pirates have any intention of winning a National League Central title, this weekend would be a nice jumping off point.

Pittsburgh tries to slash into Milwaukee's division lead on Friday when it begins a three-game series with the Brewers at Miller Park.

It won't be easy, though, as the Pirates are just 3-10 versus the Brewers this season with just one win in six tries in Milwaukee. In fact, Pittsburgh is just 39-86 versus the Brewers since the start of the 2007 season and the series has been even more lopsided at Miller Park, where the Brewers have won 53 of 66 matchups in the same span.

Plus Milwaukee will start Pirates killer Yovani Gallardo in the opener. The right-hander owns a 12-4 lifetime mark versus the Pirates with a 2.57 ERA in 24 games (23 starts).

Gallardo won for the third time in four starts on Saturday in Los Angeles, as he outdueled Clayton Kershaw and held the Dodgers to a run and six hits in eight innings to improve to 8-6 on the year to go along with a 3.32 ERA.

"I thought he threw a great game, and that was good," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said.

Gallardo is also nine strikeouts away from breaking Ben Sheets' franchise record.

Milwaukee had its five-game winning streak stopped on Wednesday, but still heads into Friday's opener, holding a 1 1/2-game edge on the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central.

Meanwhile, the Pirates, who trail the Brewers by six games in the division, snapped a seven-game losing streak on Wednesday against Atlanta, as they took advantage of Justin Upton's error in the ninth inning to rally for a 3-2 win.

Pittsburgh welcomed back starter Gerrit Cole to the rotation after the right- hander missed nearly two months with right lat soreness. Cole worked seven innings in the no-decision, allowing two runs on five hits with six strikeouts in his first action since July 4.

"I thought he pitched pretty well this evening," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Cole. "He had four pitches to go to, very efficient work. Really good to see him out on the mound."

Now the Pirates turn to lefty Jeff Locke to face a Milwaukee team that has been in first place since April 5. Locke has won his last two decisions, but did not get one on Saturday in Washington, despite tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings in his team's 4-3 loss.

Locke, who is 4-3 with a 3.73 ERA on the year, has faced the Brewers five times and is 1-2 with a 4.55 ERA against them.

08/22 10:48:21 ET

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