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Breaking down Thursday's Pirates-Brewers game

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 4:06 p.m.
 

X-factors

Pirates beat reporter Travis Sawchik'sinside look at Thursday's game:

• Edinson Volquez has struggled mightily against two Brewers stars. Center fielder Carlos Gomez has a career .353 average and three homers in 17 at-bats against Volquez. Ryan Braun has three HRs and a .355 average in his career against Volquez. Braun is dealing with a nerve issue in his right thumb but was still able to produce a three-homer game last week at the Phillies.

• Yovani Gallardo has attempted to compensate for a decrease in velocity over the last several years by relying more on a sinking fastball to produce more ground balls early this season. He enters PNC Park with a career-best 53.6 percent ground ball rate. Like the Pirates, the Brewers heavily employ defensive shifts, ideal for ground ball pitchers.

The Buzz

Gaby Sanchez earned his third straight start against a right-handed pitcher Wednesday, perhaps putting an end to what had been a cookie-cutter platoon at first base. Sanchez opened the Reds series with two multi-hit games against RHPs, including a two-homer game in the series opener.

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