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National League Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, July 13th (All times eastern)

Pittsburgh Pirates (48-37) at Milwaukee Brewers (40-45), 8:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Pittsburgh - James McDonald (9-3, 2.37) Milwaukee - Zack Greinke (9-3, 3.32)

(Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Pirates look to continue their surprising season when they take on the NL Central-rival Milwaukee Brewers this evening in the opener of a three-game series at Miller Park.

The Pirates are first in the Central standings -- one game ahead of Cincinnati and 2 1/2 games in front of St. Louis -- and took two of three matchups with the San Francisco Giants before the All-Star break. The Pirates exploded for a 13-2 victory on Sunday and A.J. Burnett benefited from the run support to improve to 10-2 on the season. Burnett allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings.

Andrew McCutchen homered twice and knocked in four runs, while Neil Walker had five hits, including a home run, two RBI and four runs scored for Pittsburgh, winners in 10 of their last 12 games. Walker has a 12-game hitting streak.

"I feel like it's pretty good for us to end how we did in the first half of the season," said McCutchen. "Hopefully we can continue that momentum going into the second half."

Casey McGehee added three hits and a pair of RBI before leaving the game in the sixth inning with a left groin strain. He is questionable for Friday.

Pittsburgh, which hasn't had a winning season since 1992, will also visit Colorado on its road trip.

James McDonald has been a big part of the Pirates' success this season and will take the mound tonight in Brew City. McDonald has won four straight starts and last toed the rubber on July 7 in a 3-1 win over the Giants. He allowed just one run and struck out 10 batters in seven innings, pushing his record to 9-3 in 17 starts with a 2.37 earned run average.

McDonald, a right-hander, defeated the Brewers on June 3 and is 1-2 with a 4.84 ERA in seven career games (3 starts) against them.

Milwaukee entered the All-Star break in impressive fashion, winning six of nine games, and will begin the second half of the 2012 campaign with six games at home versus the Pirates and Cardinals.

The Brewers won two of three meetings in Houston and squeezed out a 5-3 win in 10 innings on Sunday. Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks delivered RBI singles in the top of the 10th inning and John Axford closed the door in the bottom half for his 15th save of the season. Weeks ended 3-for-5 with a homer and two RBI.

Brewers starter Zack Greinke, who was ejected after throwing just four pitches for spiking a ball following a close play at first on Saturday, made his second straight start. He surrendered three runs on five hits and two walks in three innings.

"Zack struggled a little bit there in the first inning and that kept him from going deeper in the game," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He was fatigued after that."

Manny Parra picked up the win following a 1-2-3 ninth.

Oddly enough, Greinke gets the nod again tonight versus the Pirates and will become the first pitcher to start three straight games since Red Faber of the White Sox back in 1917. Greinke is 0-1 in his last three outings, but owns a strong 9-3 mark in 19 starts with a 3.32 ERA. The right-hander is 4-0 in seven home starts and is riding a 15-game home winning streak -- the longest in franchise history. He is 15-0 with a 2.68 ERA in 23 games (22 starts) at Miller Park.

Greinke was 11-0 at home a year ago and is 4-1 with a 5.17 ERA in five career starts against the Pirates.

Milwaukee lost two of three to the Pirates at home from June 1-3 this season, but went 12-3 in this series a year ago.

07/13 10:43:26 ET

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