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MIL@PIT: Cole pitches 7 1/3 solid innings vs. Brewers

A Pittsburgh win Tuesday would be 20 years in the making.

The Pirates are just one win shy of ending a two-decade-long drought of losing seasons with their 81st victory, which would ensure, at the very least, a .500 finish to the season.

And the first-place Bucs don't intend to stop there, their eyes fixed on a National League Central title, not simply a Wild Card berth.

"Our vision is to win the division," manager Clint Hurdle said before his club moved a game up on the Cardinals with its Labor Day win and a St. Louis loss. "I watched two teams crushed with a one-game Wild Card game [last season]. You put in 162 days of hard work, get to play one game, and if you don't play a good game that day, you go to the house.

"That's a hard pill to swallow. A division win gives you more opportunity to show what you've done throughout the season. We are committed to doing some big things, and we feel we are capable of doing them."

Despite being sandwiched between home and away series with the Cardinals, the Pirates showed they aren't overlooking this three-game set against the Brewers with a 5-2 win in Monday's opener. And they know exactly what the Brewers can do, as the Crew took two of three from the Pirates last week in Pittsburgh.

Yovani Gallardo picked up one of those wins -- his 11th since 2007 against the Pirates, fewer than only Johnny Cueto's 13 against the Bucs in that time -- and will face off against rookie Gerrit Cole once again. While Cole pitched into the eighth inning of that matchup, he allowed three runs, and Gallardo delivered seven scoreless.

"This is just the next part of our season," Hurdle said. "I know people like to spin drama, but when you live in this vacuum like we are, you really do take it one day at a time."

Although the Brewers won't be playing in the postseason this year, that doesn't mean they can't have a hand in what happens in October.

With 25 games remaining, the Brewers can play spoiler to NL Central contenders St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, which they match up with 11 more times this month. After winning last week's series, the Crew now has an opportunity to dampen the Bucs' run at first place and that elusive .500 mark.

However, the Pirates club that arrived in Milwaukee this week has a slightly different look, having added first baseman Justin Morneau since it faced the Brewers last week. Morneau went 0-for-3 in the opener.

"Yeah, we played them well, but they've added a little bit," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said with a chuckle. "When you have a Morneau hitting sixth in your lineup, you're really good."

For all the additions, the Pirates are also dealing with one significant subtraction. Pittsburgh is 8-6 since losing leadoff man Starling Marte to a right hand contusion. Leadoff duties have fallen mostly to Jose Tabata, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs on Monday, putting the Bucs within two wins of a winning season.

"I don't ever want to set the bar at 50-50," Hurdle said. "We do the best with what we have, but we understand the importance of someone stepping up, and I believe Tabata has given us a good run."

Pirates: Grilli progressing toward return, though role uncertain
Pirates right-hander Jason Grilli struck out the side in another one-hit scoreless inning while starting for Double-A Altoona on Monday.

He is expected to pitch a relief inning for Triple-A Indianapolis in Wednesday's International League playoff game. Although Grilli is inching closer to a return to Pittsburgh, it's unclear whether he will resume his role as the team's closer. Mark Melancon picked up his 10th save in Monday's win.

"We'll talk about that when he gets back," Hurdle said. "There are a lot of different discussions right now, as I continue to communicate with [pitching coach Ray Searage]."

Brewers: Gomez requests rare day off
In an effort to rest various bumps and bruises, as well as a lingering knee issue, Carlos Gomez asked for Monday off.

The center fielder's right knee, which he sprained Aug. 15 against the Reds and forced him to miss six games, is still giving him trouble. After those six games, Gomez started nine in a row before Monday.

"It's a good day, after two early games, to have a day [off]," Gomez said. "You see me limping, especially after a game I have to run a lot. [Sunday] I had a rough time and I had a few balls in the gap I had to run [for]. I feel a little fatigued."

Worth noting
• In 2005, the Brewers ended a 12-year losing streak when they won their 81st game in Pittsburgh.

• Right-handed reliever Michael Blazek made his Brewers debut Monday with a perfect eighth inning. After waiting in limbo for a few days, Blazek arrived in Milwaukee on Monday as the player to be named in the John Axford trade with St. Louis.

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