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MIL@PIT: Karstens is untouchable in fifth victory

Last Thursday, the Pirates had an off-day before facing the Brewers for a three-game series.

It's the same story this week, as Pittsburgh had an off-day on Thursday before traveling to Milwaukee for another three-game stint with its National League Central rivals, where the teams will open the series at Milwaukee's Miller Park on a night the Brewers honor legendary broadcaster Bob Uecker.

Prior to Friday night's game, a seven-foot bronze statue depicting Uecker will be unveiled in an afternoon ceremony outside the stadium. The statue joins the likes of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Robin Yount, as well as Major League Baseball commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig.

"I'm looking forward to it," Uecker said. "It's a wonderful thing to have happen, and I get a chance to see a lot of old friends. I talked to Bob Costas [Thursday] morning and he's in town already, all fired up about being the emcee. Henry Aaron is all fired up, and he'll be there."

As for the game itself, Jeff Karstens takes the mound for Pittsburgh to face the Brewers for the second time in less than a week. Karstens (5-3, 3.47 ERA) held Milwaukee scoreless over seven innings last Saturday, allowing seven hits and striking out four.

He left the game after 84 pitches, one of his shorter outings of the season, due to a groin issue, but earned his fifth win of the year in his 14th start this season.

"I wasn't happy about having to come out when I did, but at the end of the day, I'm just happy that we won," Karstens said. "I was at the point of the game where I was about out of the game, anyway. So just thank God it didn't happen earlier, where our bullpen would've gotten taxed."

He'll take on Mark Rogers, who also earned a win in his most recent outing.

Rogers (2-1, 4.28 ERA) made just his sixth start of the season at Pittsburgh last Sunday, pushing through five scoreless innings en route to his second win of the year.

Rogers had only given up three hits to that point, but his pitch count was up to 101.

"I have to find a way to get deeper into these games," said Rogers, who tallied five strikeouts and three walks in the outing. "I missed my fair share of pitches today, but every time I missed they were safe misses, I guess. I can handle that."

Pirates: Alvarez swinging a hot bat
Pedro Alvarez has reached safely in 12 of his past 13 games, going 19-for-47 with 10 walks, and raising his average to its highest point (.249) since May 5, when it was .253.

His 26 home runs are the most among all National League third basemen.

Two of those homers came Tuesday as part of Alvarez's 4-for-5 night, which helped Pittsburgh to a 9-0 win against the Cardinals. But Alvarez got the biggest response after his strikeout in the eighth, as the PNC Park faithful gave him a standing ovation.

"Look," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told Alvarez, "all you got to do is hit two homers, get four hits -- and they'll clap for you when you strike out here."

It was the fifth two-homer game in Alvarez's career, all coming as a third baseman. That ties him with Richie Hebner and Aramis Ramirez for the most multi-homer games in team history by a third baseman.

Alvarez added another homer to his stellar series against the Cardinals on Wednesday, knocking in three runs with a 2-for-4 outing as Pittsburgh won the finale, 5-0.

Brewers: Players excited for Uecker's day
For many Brewers players, Friday's pre-game routine will be slightly different than usual.

A number of current and active players, along with manager Ron Roenicke and his staff, plan to attend the unveiling of Uecker's statue in an afternoon ceremony outside Miller Park. Uecker's impressive career resume, which extends well beyond the broadcast booth, has earned him the respect of fans and players alike.

"You know what you see on TV, and what you hear [on the radio], the persona of what Bob Uecker has done through media, film, television, radio," closer John Axford said. "And when you get to the ballpark and talk to him, you realize that is him. He's a great character, he's great to have in the clubhouse, and he's great to have around all the time. He livens things up. What you see is what you get from him, and it's awesome."

Worth noting
• Pittsburgh starting pitchers have won 53 games this season, while losing 48. The last time the starting staff won 52 games was 2003, when it posted a 52-59 record. The starting rotation had its last winning campaign in 1992, when it went 59-47.

• One of the Brewers top pitching prospects, Jimmy Nelson, turned in one of his best performances of the year Tuesday, tossing seven one-hit innings and earning a win in Double-A Huntsville's 4-0 victory.

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