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MIL@HOU: Greinke, Roenicke ejected in bottom of first

When the Pirates and Brewers resume the 2012 season Friday in the first of a three-game series at Miller Park, Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke will do something that hasn't been done in baseball since 1917.

Greinke, who started games Saturday and Sunday for the Brewers, will again be the Brewers' starting pitcher Friday. When he does, he will be the first to do it since Red Faber started three straight games for the White Sox early in the last century.

Greinke did not fare too well in his Saturday and Sunday starts, getting ejected after throwing just four pitches Saturday and being tagged with the loss, then going just three innings in a no-decision in Sunday's 5-3 victory over the Astros.

Despite his misadventures in Houston, Greinke is in the midst of an outstanding season. He's 9-3 with a 3.32 ERA in 19 starts and 111 innings and had won four straight decisions before the Saturday loss to the Astros.

Greinke was ejected from that game after becoming angry with himself and spiking the ball after being late covering first base on a grounder hit by the Astros' Jose Altuve.

He knows he messed up.

"I got real mad at myself, because it's a mental mistake," Greinke said. "I think it's the first time I've not covered first on a ball hit to that side. So I was just really mad with myself.

"I don't know why I threw the ball down. I never make mental mistakes like that."

If it is going to get better for Greinke Friday, it will have to be against the hottest team in the National League, the Pirates, who seemingly have an unlimited number of hot streaks and landmark achievements in what has been a magical first half of the season.

The Pirates are in first place in the NL Central and have won six of seven and 10 of 12. No team in the Majors has a better record since May 12 than their 34-19 mark.

Their 48-37 record is the second-best in the National League behind the Nationals and they are 11 games over .500 for the first time since 1992 and are in first place at the break for the first time since 1997.

The Pirates have gone 11-1-1 in their past 13 series and have won seven consecutive series at PNC Park.

In their last game Sunday, a 13-2 victory over the Giants, All-Star outfielder Andrew McCutchen had three hits, including two home runs, his 17th and 18th of the season, and drove in four runs to raise his RBI total for the season to 60.

McCutchen's .362 batting average leads the Majors, and he ended the first half of the season on a 20-for-37 (.540) tear, and all of his team-high 18 home runs have come in the past two months. Though he didn't make it past the first round in Monday's State Farm Home Run Derby, McCutchen went 1-for-2 for the National League in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

Pirates: McDonald gets the nod
• James McDonald will be the Pirates' starter on Friday. The righty is 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA in 17 starts and 110 innings. He allowed four runs in seven innings in his last start, a win against the Giants on July 7.

• First baseman Casey McGehee has 23 RBIs in his past 19 games.

• Second baseman Neil Walker, who had five hits Sunday against the Giants, has a 12-game hitting streak, tying a team season high.

He had a homer, double and three singles in the win over the Giants Sunday and it was the first five-hit game for a Pirates player since Walker did it July 20, 2010. Walker is hitting .489 (23 for 47) during his streak.

Brewers: Weeks perks up
• Second baseman Rickie Weeks made a bid to get his batting average to .200 at the All-Star break with three hits, including his second home run in three games, in Sunday's victory over the Astros, but didn't quite get there. He's hitting .199.

• Reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun ended the first half with two hits, including a double, Sunday and headed to the All-Star Game with 24 home runs, 61 RBI and a .306 batting average.

Worth noting
• The Pirates' 29-14 home record is the best in the Majors, but they will be on the road for 16 of their first 22 games after the break.

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