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05/18/10 11:38 AM ET

Brewers, Pirates could use a spark

Two National League Central teams that have been scuffling lately -- the Pirates and the Brewers -- have a chance to pick it up against a division foe as they face off Wednesday.

The Pirates and Brewers square off for a two-game set as both teams try to gain some momentum and right the ship before heading into tough weekend series against the Braves and Twins, respectively.

Even after Tuesday's 2-1 win over the Phillies, the Bucs have lost six of nine, and with the late loss to Cincy on Tuesday, the Brewers have now dropped eight games in a row. But even in defeat, Milwaukee still showed some offensive life.

If the Pirates want to win Wednesday, they'll need to get the bats going early, because once the Brewers score, they seldom look back. Milwaukee is 12-3 when it scores first and 3-21 when the opponent scores first.

In charge of keeping the Brewers off the board early is starter Brian Burres, who has been a bit of an enigma this season. Despite having a 13-inning scoreless streak snapped in his last start, Burres has been all over the place. He has been as high as throwing seven shutout innings against the Cubs earlier this season to as low as allowing five runs in four innings in his last start, also against Chicago. Locating his fastball was the issue in his most recent start.

"The team picked me up big time today," Burres said after his last start. "I found a lot of bats today. When I was throwing strikes, I wasn't hitting the corners. It was more right down the middle."

His Wednesday counterpart, Randy Wolf, is familiar with the problem Burres is referring to. In his last outing against the Phillies, Wolf was scorched for six earned runs in five innings and left too many pitches over the plate. He especially struggled against the Phils' left-handed bats. He didn't really mince words with his analysis, either.

"Today was one of those days where it's kind of embarrassing the way I pitched," Wolf said after his last start. "I couldn't execute anything. I was behind everybody. When you do that against a bad big league team, you're in trouble.

Locating fastballs has been a struggle for both Wolf and Burress lately. But it especially dogged Wolf against Philly.

"If you look back, I was 2-and-1, 3-and-1, 3-and-2 on everybody," Wolf said. "I couldn't throw my slider for a strike. I couldn't find my curveball until I was pretty much out of the game. My changeup was my only pitch that was halfway decent, and it wasn't that good. [When you have] a combination of bad stuff, bad location, it's going to be an uphill climb all day."

Both pitchers will be focused on bettering their command as they try to also better their team's record with a much-needed victory.

Brewers: Hoffman blowing it
Veteran closer Trevor Hoffman blew his fifth save of the season in Tuesday's loss to Cincinnati. He has blown five of 10 save opportunities this year. He already has eclipsed his blown saves total (four) from last season. The key blow against the Reds was a two-run blast by Scott Rolen, bringing Hoffman's total homers allowed to seven. He allowed just two last year.

Pirates: LaRoche gets back in zone
Third baseman Andy LaRoche entered Tuesday on a 3-for-34 skid, but has worked extensively on his swing with hitting coach Don Long. It paid off with an RBI single in the Pirates' 2-1 win over the Phillies.

"He worked on some things on Monday," Pirates manager John Russell said. "He got back to some things that have worked for him. I think he's getting more comfortable. It's just one of those things where, he got kind of away from what he was doing. Donny talked to him, and we worked on it extensively yesterday to get back to that comfort zone that he is used to. I think he felt a lot better."

Worth noting
The Brewers recalled right-hander Marco Estrada in time for Tuesday's game, and he performed well in his first outing. After Manny Parra's early exit, Estrada pitched four innings, allowing just one run on two hits.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.