Sunday marks the Brewers' 61st day atop the National League Central, and they will remain there for a while. After trading blowouts with the Pirates to begin the current series at PNC Park, the Brewers own a five-game lead over the second-place Cardinals.
Manager Ron Roenicke's club will try to preserve that advantage Sunday in the rubber match of a three-game series in Pittsburgh.
"We played well at the beginning, really well," Roenicke said. "Then, really, we've been off and on for probably a month. … I like the fact that we have faltered some and then bounced back and played pretty well. So I think that's probably the thing I think about more because I know we're so far away from the end of the season that, yeah, it's great to be where we are but how we're playing is more important to me because we've got so long to go.
"Like when we have a bad stretch, if I see us bounce right back, it starts to make you feel better about the team and what's going to happen when you go through the tough times. This group, I think, will be able to handle it."
When the Brewers have had tough times, they have been brief. After dropping two of three in their season-opening series against the Braves, the Brewers rattled off nine consecutive wins. After losing five of six games to begin the road trip prior to this one, they won eight of the next 12.
"That's the ideal situation -- when you go in your little funks, they're 3-4 days or a week at the most," Roenicke said. "You can handle a long season if you can do that."
Yovani Gallardo will start for the Brewers as scheduled, but the Pirates are poised to make a change, going with left-hander Jeff Locke over the previously scheduled Charlie Morton. Locke will take the roster spot of Gerrit Cole, who landed on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue.
Brewers: Gorzelanny makes strikes on rehab
Tom Gorzelanny's Friday night rehab start for Triple-A Nashville went well -- very well.
"His first encouraging outing," Roenicke said. "Stuff was there and he felt good. Afterward he felt good. He pitches again Monday, I think it is, and we're getting to the point where we need to make some decisions. But this has been the first good one he's had."
Gorzelanny allowed only one hit and no runs while throwing 34 pitches over 2 1/3 innings, with no walks and one strikeout. Jimmy Nelson, the previously scheduled starter, pitched the game's final six innings to finish a 1-0 victory.
He is scheduled for at least one more outing on Monday, 20 pitches in relief, and could subsequently pitch one more game Thursday before his 30-day rehab assignment expires. If Gorzelanny is ready, the Brewers will reinstate him to a bullpen that already features three left-handers (Will Smith, Zach Duke and Wei-Chung Wang). If Gorzelanny is not ready, he would return to the Brewers but stay on their disabled list.
Would it work to have a bullpen with four lefties?
"I don't think it does in the long run unless your lefties are really dominating right-handers also," Roenicke said. "Smith has been able to do that. Duke has done it, but we would like Duke more in situations with left-handers."
Pirates: Change of pitching plans?
Hurdle forecast his pitching rotation shake-up on Saturday morning when a reporter asked whether Morton was still scheduled to pitch against the Brewers.
"Could be, we're still working through that," Hurdle said. "Want to talk to the principals first. … Something for you to ponder."
He provided some additional clarity after the Pirates' loss, saying Cole was headed to the DL. The Pirates' top winner (6-3) labored through 100 pitches in 5 2/3 innings Tuesday night in San Diego, raising what Hurdle called "red flags."
"I think 'fatigue' is the proper word," Hurdle said. "If you look at the season he pitched last year, the run on which he went with us... At this point in time, we really feel it's [just] fatigue."
• Andrew McCutchen, who homered in Friday's series opener, has hit 17 home runs against Milwaukee since the start of 2010, most of any player.
• Free agent Kendrys Morales reached terms on a one-year deal with the Twins on Saturday, formally squashing speculation that the Brewers might make a move for him. Club officials considered Morales more of a designated hitter, and will proceed with the right-left platoon of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay at first base.