The opener of a three-game series in Pittsburgh on Tuesday features two pitchers trending in opposite directions.
With the Pirates battling for playoff position, left-hander Jeff Locke has scuffled of late with six-straight winless starts and a 1-3 record in his last eight outings. Locke lasted just four innings against the Giants on Thursday, allowing three earned runs on five hits, while walking four and striking out three.
"I've been throwing and missing on the corners a lot more, because I definitely don't want to miss [in the] middle," said Locke. "If I could go out there and pump the strike zone, I would. Sometimes, [I'm] giving hitters more credit than they deserve; I have to realize it's not that easy to hit a fastball down the middle."
Brewers starter Kyle Lohse, however, has 13 quality starts in his last 16 outings and holds a 2.53 ERA in that span.
On Aug. 20, Lohse beat his former team, the Cards, with six quality innings. Lohse allowed three earned runs on six hits, while walking two and striking out four. After his last start, Lohse said he takes pride in beating teams in playoff contention.
"I don't put any more emphasis on any one game over the other," said Lohse, who won 16 games for the Cardinals last season. "The team did a great job of battling back after I put us in a little hole. Other than that, it doesn't mean any more beating [the Cardinals]. I know we have a stretch here where we play a lot of teams contending for playoff spots, and I don't care who it is, it feels good to kind of hurt teams' chances."
The Pirates enter Tuesday a half-game behind the Cardinals for first place in the National League Central Division -- after St. Louis defeated Cincinnati, 8-6, on Monday night -- and Sunday's 4-0 loss to the Giants ended a grueling stretch of 13 out of 16 games on the road. Pittsburgh ended the stretch 6-10 and opens up a much needed six-game homestand against the Brewers and Cardinals on Tuesday.
"I've been pleased with the preparation," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We got off to a rough start [getting swept in Colorado], but have picked it up this trip. Now, we're looking forward to getting home for a while."
The Pirates' finish out their schedule with 17 home games and 15 on the road.
Pirates: Hurdle will point to Burnett, Liriano in playoffs
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle plans to stick with A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano to lead his rotation if the Pirates make the postseason.
Burnett and Liriano were stellar in back-to-back games at San Diego.
"When they are on their game, they can be a force," Hurdle said. "And they can beat a good team. I just like the way we're going about our business, throwing our best two guys back to back. We're trying to get something done."
Brewers: Roenicke chooses to rest Aoki
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke held Norichika Aoki out of the starting lineup on Sunday despite his leadoff hitter being healthy enough to play. The Brewers right fielder, who missed Wednesday's game with patellar tendinitis in his right knee, pinch-hit in the ninth.
"He's fine. He could play [Sunday]," Roenicke said before the game. "I think it's maybe trying to get him completely healthy. We probably won't be able to, but this will help again. I like the days back-to-back with tomorrow being an off-day. He didn't come to me and ask for a day off. I just thought about it, and I thought it may help him some.
"He's been fine playing the last couple days. With [Carlos Gomez] banged up and him a little a bit, I'd like to get him closer to 100 percent."
• With Scooter Gennett, Caleb Gindl and Khris Davis seeing extended playing time this season, Roenicke addressed the progression of his young players Sunday.
"I think, any time you're looking at young players, and you see them developing, you see them getting better. That's what we try to do as a staff," Roenicke said. "That's our focus, trying to get players better. When you see them do that, that's the pleasure we get out of coaching."
• Jose Tabata has hit .522 against Lohse in his career with a home run and four RBIs in 23 at-bats. Neil Walker has hit .381 off him with five RBIs in 21 at-bats.
Kevin Massoth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.