Milwaukee took a split in its doubleheader against Pittsburgh on Monday, and it will go into Tuesday's game with the biggest division lead (nine games) in franchise history. The Brewers gained a half-game on second-place St. Louis on Monday night despite dropping the nightcap.
And by dropping that game -- a 9-2 decision -- the Brewers leavened one of the hottest streaks in baseball. Milwaukee has won four of its last five and has gone 16-3 in its last 19 games, a tear that has moved the Brewers into the largest division lead of any big league team.
Pittsburgh had lost nine straight games to Milwaukee prior to Monday's nightcap, and it used a seven-run rally in the seventh inning to wash that skid away. The Pirates will turn to Ross Ohlendorf on Tuesday, and he'll be matched up against Milwaukee rookie Marco Estrada.
Ohlendorf, who went on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain in April, will be making his third appearance of the year. Ohlendorf took a seven-inning no-decision for Triple-A Indianapolis last week, and the Pirates tabbed him as a replacement for injured starter Paul Maholm.
"I'm really excited about it," Ohlendorf said of the opportunity. "It's been a long four months."
The Pirates preferred not to announce Ohlendorf as Tuesday's starter until after they made a corresponding roster move (they designated lefty Joe Beimel for assignement), but his presence all but gave away their plans.
"We brought him back in here to get our hands on him [and] make sure he's physically fit before we activate him," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle of Ohlendorf's status. "I just spoke with him briefly. The trainers will check him out. That could definitely be a possibility for tomorrow."
The Brewers, meanwhile, will turn to Estrada as they look for a leg up in the four-game series. Estrada has shuttled between the bullpen and rotation this year, and he's gone 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA in six starts. Estrada has thrown nine scoreless innings against the Pirates this season.
Brewers: Rare dry spell for Fielder
Prince Fielder went both games without a hit on Monday, marking the first time he'd gone hitless in consecutive games in more than a month. Fielder, who's hitting .321 (25-for-78) in August, hadn't been shut out twice since July 19-21, when he went 0-for-13 in three games against Arizona.
Pirates: Tabata makes statement in return
The Pirates made headlines by rewarding Jose Tabata with a six-year contract extension over the weekend, and the 23-year-old outfielder provided some early returns on Monday. Tabata had five hits in the doubleheader and is now hitting .414 (12-for-29) since returning from the disabled list.
Tabata, who had been sidelined by a strained left quadriceps muscle, was activated from the DL on Tuesday. Pittsburgh's left fielder has had four multihit games in seven starts since returning. Tabata is batting .321 (52-for-162) at home and .226 (28-for-124) on the road this season.
Prior to Sunday night's Cubs victory over the Cardinals, the Brewers hadn't had an 8 1/2-game lead since June 2007. ... Milwaukee veteran Randy Wolf celebrated his 35th birthday on Monday. ... The Brewers pulled even with last year's victory total (77) by virtue of a victory in the first game of the doubleheader. ... The Pirates played their first home doubleheader since May 2008 season on Monday.