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ATL@MIL: Lohse strikes out eight over seven innings

If the Pirates are to throw a wrench into the fabulous pitching-fueled start of the Brewers, they will need to do it against Kyle Lohse -- and they might need some help.

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle might veer from his usual lineup against right-handed pitchers to give right fielder Jose Tabata his third start of the season. Lifetime, Tabata has been lethal against Lohse, batting .500 (13-for-26) and slugging .769, with two doubles, a triple and a homer.

The Bucs could certainly use that help as they try to leave Milwaukee with a win, after two days of getting the same treatment the Brewers have given everyone so far this season.

Lohse is recognized as a leader in the Milwaukee clubhouse, but has trailed his fellow starters on the mound in the early going, with an ERA (4.50) two runs higher than that of anyone else.

Of course, being called the weak link in Milwaukee's rotation is to be faulted with faint criticism. The Brewers' fast start to this season is surprising only to those who weren't paying attention at the end of last one, when the team's starting pitchers got on a roll that is still gaining steam.

In fact, Milwaukee starters have not allowed more than three runs in a club-record 25 straight games and, reverting to 1990, only three teams have put together longer such streaks.

Matt Garza is the only newcomer to the quintet that has the Brewers taking the field every game with good vibes.

"There's a different feel when guys think they have a chance to win," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said, musing about his team's early-season success. "There have been some guys we added here that are bringing not just a better quality on the field, but off the field. Some guys are vocal, Garza is very vocal, and we need some guys like that. These guys have a chance to win here, and that gives you extra energy and it does for me and the coaches, also."

Charlie Morton will take the ball for the Pirates, knowing his success depends on how much offensive support he can get. Francisco Liriano and Edinson Volquez both pitched well in the opening game of the set, but their Milwaukee mound foes pitched even better.

Ground Chuck, as Morton is known for his propensity to induce ground balls, has surrendered only one home run in 106 plate appearances against players on the Brewers' current roster. That one was by Ryan Braun in 2010, one of his six hits in 11 at-bats against Morton.

Pirates: No slouches on mound
The Pirates can boast of their own pitching consistency: Only once in the first 11 games has their starter not pitched at least six innings -- and that was Volquez's 5 2/3-inning start against the Cardinals on Sunday, three days after he'd worked two innings in relief.

"I like the work on the mound coming out of the gate," Hurdle said. "Everyone is doing his work for four days, then taking it out to the mound."

Brewers: Ramirez 'scary good' in the clutch
Aramis Ramirez, healthy after missing more than two months of the 2013 season with two left-knee injuries, is 8-for-11 with runners in scoring position, making manager Ron Roenicke glad that they are on the same side.

"This guy is a proven run producer," said Roenicke, who hopes Ramirez gives opposing managers the same shakes he feels when Boston's David Ortiz comes up in the clutch. "I hate every time he [Ortiz] comes up there if it's a big situation. When it's on the line, some of these guys can turn it up. I don't know if it's personality or if it's just success in doing it over the years, but they're scary, and Rami is one of those guys."

Worth noting
• Top Pirates prospect Gregory Polanco improved his Triple-A average to .486 by going 3-for-3 with Indianapolis on Saturday night.

• Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg has retired 14 straight batters over his last four outings.

• At 308 saves, Francisco Rodriguez is two shy of matching Hall of Famer Goose Gossage for 20th place on the all-time list.

• Pirates outfielder Travis Snider has reached base in all nine games he has played. Comments