Originally written on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 10/20/14
By MATT BECKER, STATS Senior WriterFor the first time in 15 years, the Pittsburgh Pirates enter September within striking distance of the playoffs.To get to the postseason, they'll need their MVP-candidate center fielder and the anchor of their rotation to leave their August struggles behind.With the slumping Andrew McCutchen expected back in the lineup, A.J. Burnett looks to bounce back from another shaky start Saturday night when the Pirates try to avoid losing for the eighth time in 11 games as they take on the red-hot Milwaukee Brewers.With a 9-3 loss in Friday's opener in Milwaukee, Pittsburgh (70-61) concluded August 11-17 to drop 10 games back of NL Central-leading Cincinnati after being three out at the end of July. The Pirates, however, are still just one-half game back of the NL's second wild-card spot, making this the closest they've been to the playoffs entering September since 1997, when they were 2 12 games back in the division race.The Pirates' August fade shouldn't be too surprising, though, considering the play of McCutchen and Burnett (15-5, 3.67 ERA).McCutchen, who was given Friday off, still leads the league with a .344 average -- 29 points lower since Aug. 1 after hitting .252 with two homers last month. A series in Milwaukee, however, could be just what he needs to get back on track.In six games at Miller Park this season, McCutchen is batting .500 with four homers and nine RBIs. He is also 1 for 3 with a homer against scheduled starter Marco Estrada (2-5, 4.02).Burnett leads Pittsburgh in wins, but he seems to have hit a wall. The Pirates have lost three of his last four starts, with the right-hander recording a 6.29 ERA. Pittsburgh had the same number of losses in his first 20 starts, with Burnett posting a 3.19 ERA.One of those defeats came in his lone start against the Brewers on July 15, when he permitted four runs and nine hits in seven innings of a 4-1 final in Milwaukee (63-68). He is 1-3 with a 6.48 ERA in four career starts at Miller Park, and Ryan Braun is 5 for 10 lifetime off him.The Pirates are hopeful Burnett can go deep after Friday's starter Jeff Karstens got just one out before leaving with a leg injury."I don't want to put my team in a situation like that," Karstens saidBraun is batting .478 with two homers, four doubles and seven RBIs in his last five games, and he might not even be Milwaukee's hottest hitter.Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez both went 3 for 4 with home runs Friday, as the Brewers won for the ninth time in 11 games. Hart is batting .364 with three homers and 13 RBIs in the last 14 games, while Ramirez is hitting .433 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in his last eight.The Brewers are averaging 6.5 runs in their last 11 games, which has been a benefit to Estrada, but the righty is also pitching much better.Estrada ended a streak of 15 starts and 14 relief appearances without a win by throwing six scoreless innings in beating the Cubs on Aug. 21. Six days later in Chicago, he allowed three unearned runs and six hits in five innings of a 15-4 victory.His last win against a team other than the Cubs came over Pittsburgh on Aug. 23, 2011. In his lone start of this season against the Pirates on July 14, Estrada gave up three runs in 5 2-3 innings.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Ben Roethlisberger rips the media

Tim Tebow: Gators don't have offensive leadership, lack heart

Colts punter asks Antonio Brown not to kick him in face

NFL: Luke Kuechly should not have been ejected

Report: Okla. St. players fell asleep in drive-thru, arrested

Oscar Pistorius sentenced to five years in prison

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Mike Pettine considered benching Hoyer for Manziel

Percy Harvin speaks out: 'I'm not a perfect person'

Report: Kobe has prevented Lakers from signing top talent

Red Sox may be ready to move Yoenis Cespedes

Alleged details of War Machine's suicide letter released

Austin Davis says Rams security didn't recognize him

Blackhawks make leukemia patient's dream come true

College football's post-Week 8 Playoff projection

Ortiz surprised military families with World Series tickets

NFL Power Rankings Week 7

Floyd Mayweather posts photo evidence of a lost bet

WATCH: Paul George takes court for first time since leg injury

Five most surprising NFL players through seven weeks

WATCH: Boxer viciously attacks referee at Euro Championships

WATCH: Salvador Perez hassles Lorenzo Cain at media session

Lane Kiffin trashed in Tennessee political ad

WATCH: Lawrence Timmons throws up on field during MNF

10 NBA players who could be traded by the All-Star break

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Ben Roethlisberger rips media

NFL Power Rankings Week 7

Pistorius sentenced to five years

Lane Kiffin trashed in political ad

Details of War Machine's suicide letter leaked

Angry Jimbo Fisher cuts off interview

Is Kobe's deal hurting the Lakers?

Tenn. coach tried to trip Ole Miss CB?

GGG continues his reign of terror

The 6 things that mattered this weekend in the premier league

News station congratulates Gary Payton for TD record

Ray Rice could be back by Week 10?

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.