The Pittsburgh Pirates found a winning formula the past two games following a five-game losing streak, but it's one they will surely have a hard time continuing Friday in the second game of a four-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Michael Perez hit three homers in the series opener Thursday as the Pirates held on for an 8-7 win. The previous game, Bryan Reynolds homered three times in a win by the same score over the Washington Nationals.
"Hopefully, the three-homer train just keeps getting passed along," Pittsburgh pitcher JT Brubaker said.
Only one other time in major league history did teammates produce three-homer games in consecutive contests. The Atlanta Braves accomplished the feat in September 2020.
Overall, the Pirates hit five homers Thursday, one day after hitting four. They finished June with 44 long balls, their second-highest total ever in a month, many of them by young players.
"We've talked all along -- the kids are going to have to contribute," Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said.
The homers haven't always translated to wins -- Pittsburgh went 10-18 in June -- but it helps to at least keep things close. The Pirates have played in 45 games decided by two or fewer runs, including each of the past eight contests.
Milwaukee, in close competition with the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League Central lead, had won four in a row before Thursday and just missed matching its longest winning streak of the season. The Brewers scored three runs in the ninth before leaving the tying and go-ahead runs on base.
"It was homers that hurt us," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said.
The Brewers have mostly had their way with Pittsburgh this season. They went 6-0 against the Pirates during two April series and were 8-0 in the head-to-head series dating to last season before their rally fell short Thursday.
Milwaukee right-hander Corbin Burnes (6-4, 2.41 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday opposite Pittsburgh right-hander Roansy Contreras (2-1, 2.76).
Contreras, 22, is having a strong rookie season. His ERA ranks first among rookies with at last seven starts. He eased in by joining the bullpen, but since joining the rotation May 24, he is 1-1 with a 2.60 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 16 walks in 34 2/3 innings.
"I love when he attacks hitters," Pirates infielder Diego Castillo said. "He goes up there and he doesn't care who's hitting. He forgets about that. ... He's going to attack with all his power. And we believe in him a lot because the confidence he's got on the mound is amazing."
Contreras did not get a decision Sunday at Tampa Bay after he allowed one run in five innings.
Contreras will be making his first career start against the Brewers. He pitched three innings of relief against them on April 19, giving up one run.
Burnes has won his past three starts while pitching to a 2.18 ERA in that stretch. He is coming off a win Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays when he allowed three runs and three hits in 7 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks.
"He's been great in the vast majority of his starts," Counsell said. "It's a stopper. It's length in the game. It's zeros.
"When you have a guy like that, you know when his turn is coming up that you're going to get a really good effort and you're going to get deep into a game and you're going to get zeros."
Against the Pirates, Burnes is 5-0 with a 2.78 ERA in 17 career appearances, five of them starts. That includes a gem on April 19, a 5-2 win in which he gave up two runs and four hits in seven innings with 10 strikeouts and no walks.
--Field Level Media