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MIL@HOU: Gallardo fans six over seven strong innings

The Pirates and Brewers will meet in the rubber match of a three-game series Sunday at Miller Park, as red-hot Pittsburgh tries to keep pace with Cincinnati in the National League Central.

A.J. Burnett gets the start for the Pirates, who won for the 11th time in 14 games on Saturday to remain tied with the Reds atop the division, eight games in front of the fourth-place Brewers. Milwaukee, which has taken seven of its past 11, will hand the ball to Yovani Gallardo.

Burnett (10-2, 3.68 ERA) will attempt to pick up right where he left off in the first half. The veteran right-hander is riding a 12-start unbeaten streak since early May, going 9-0 with a 2.79 ERA in that span.

Burnett picked up his 10th win last Sunday, when he held the Giants to two runs on four hits in 6 1/3 innings.

"A.J. was very efficient, very strong when we needed him to be strong," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Gallardo (7-6, 3.74) is riding a history of success against the Pirates. In 12 career games, the right-hander is 7-2 with a 2.23 ERA, his lowest mark against any division opponent.

He also has been on a roll of late, posting a 2.35 ERA during a run of six consecutive quality starts that dropped his season ERA from 4.50. On July 6 at Houston, he kept the Astros to one run on four hits in six innings.

"It was just a nice job by 'Yo' to keep them down, and we got a couple of big hits," manager Ron Roenicke said. "He came through with some big pitches. He's got so many different weapons that he can use. And when he gets in a tight spot and he's locating with those pitches, it's going to be pretty tough for them to hit the located pitches."

Pirates: McCutchen not slowing down
If there was any concern that the All-Star break or the Home Run Derby would throw a wrench in center fielder Andrew McCutchen's season, he has put those to rest in the first two games of the second half.

The All-Star slugger went 3-for-4 with a home run on Friday, smacked a two-run shot on Saturday and has gone deep in three consecutive games. If the Derby impacted McCutchen at the plate, as is sometimes feared, it's not showing.

"If I think it's going to mess up my swing, I wouldn't have done it," he said.

Since June 16, McCutchen has hit safely in 20 of 23 games, batting .469 (45-for-96) with seven doubles, two triples, nine homers and 26 RBIs.

• Second baseman Neil Walker's 14-game hitting streak is the longest by a Pittsburgh player this season and four games short of Walker's career-best streak, accomplished in 2010.

Brewers: Weeks digging out of big hole
Second baseman Rickie Weeks' batting average sat at .162 on June 15, but the 2011 NL All-Star has turned his season around since that point.

In his past 22 games before going 0-for-4 on Saturday, Weeks hit .298 with three home runs, 14 RBIs and an .877 OPS.

"He's on time better for the fastball," Roenicke said. "He's not chasing the breaking ball. He's hitting the ball to all fields. He's got that quick bat that he had that you never could throw a fastball by him, so he's doing all the things that we saw from him last year when he was good."

In those 22 games, the Brewers averaged 5.4 runs per game, compared with 4.3 in the season's first 64 contests. If Weeks continues to click and provide depth in the bottom half of the Milwaukee lineup, "it will make a big difference," Roenicke said.

"Anytime you're scoring runs [from the 6-8 spots], your offense is going to be fine," he said.

Worth noting
• Pittsburgh leads the season series 3-2.

• Burnett has made three career starts at Miller Park, the most recent in 2008. His last outing against the Brewers came on June 29, 2011, when he held them to two runs in seven innings at Yankee Stadium. Comments