Though his record wouldn't indicate it, Brewers starter Kyle Lohse has been pretty solid this season. Unfortunately, he's needed to be nearly perfect every time out to even have a chance of earning a victory.
Lohse enters Tuesday night's start against the Pirates sporting a 1-4 record, despite a respectable 3.53 ERA. The Brewers have managed to score just two combined runs in Lohse's last three starts and the veteran right-hander has received a National League-worst 2.00 runs of support per game through seven starts.
"You're going to notice it at this point," Lohse said of the lack of run support. "But it's not something that I'm going around hanging my head about or saying anything. These guys are trying hard. The pitcher on the other side is trying to do his job, too, and they've been doing a good job. It just so happens that it keeps happening on the days I'm pitching.
"It will even out, I'm sure. I'll keep grinding away -- that's what I do."
At the same time, Lohse acknowledged there is still room for improvement on the mound. He has conceded four runs in each of his last two outings after not allowing more than three in any of his first five starts. Considering the Brewers have scored more than one run just twice in Lohse's seven starts, that formula won't result in many wins.
"If I do a better job of executing pitches," said Lohse, who has served up five homers in his last three starts, "we could be winning, 1-0."
After snapping a four-game losing streak with Monday's series-opening victory, the Brewers will now look to break through in support of Lohse against Pirates starter Jeff Locke.
It won't be an easy task against Locke, who has impressed after earning the Pirates' fifth starter role out of Spring Training. The 25-year-old lefty is off to a 3-1 start with a 2.95 ERA and has pitched at least six innings in three of his last four starts, while allowing one or fewer runs in each of those three outings.
Brewers: Braun expected to return to lineup
Left fielder Ryan Braun is expected to return to the starting lineup on Tuesday, one night after sitting out to rest a stiff neck.
Braun, who has also been getting treatment since the start of Spring Training for a back problem, has been dealing with the neck issue since early April. Despite the lingering issues, Braun is hitting .306 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs.
"We were just trying to figure out a day that works best," Braun said before Monday's game. " ... [Monday was] just a day that works best for us and the challenges of trying to stay as close to hundred percent healthy as possible over the course of a season. I'm fine. I'll be back in there tomorrow."
Pirates: Walker returns from DL stint
Second baseman Neil Walker went hitless in four at-bats on Monday in his return to the lineup after missing 14 games with a lacerated right hand.
Walker, who required six stitches after being stepped on by Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma on April 26, went 5-for-12 in four rehab games with Double-A Altoona. Prior to the injury, Walker was hitting .253 with eight RBIs in 23 games.
"He stabilizes our lineup, strengthens it," manager Clint Hurdle said. "When he's not around, you feel his absence."
Jordy Mercer, who hit .258 with three home runs in nine games during Walker's absence, was optioned back to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room for Walker.
• Lohse is 9-2 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 careers appearances (16) starts against the Pirates.
• Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata is hitting .476 (10-for-21) with a double, triple and home run in his career against Lohse.
• The Brewers, who are 3-1 against the Pirates this season, have won each of the last six season series between the clubs dating to the 2007 season. Milwaukee is 72-25 against Pittsburgh during that span.