By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jul 19, 2010 at 4:10 PM

It's a long shot -- a really, really long shot -- but the Brewers aren't quite out of the race ... yet.

If the team is going to scrape its way back into contention, it will have to be now when the schedule, though not easy, is favorable to the Brewers' cause.

The Brewers (42-51) sit 9.5 games behind St. Louis in the Central. Tonight, they open a four-game series in Pittsburgh, where they have won four of five this season. Against the Pirates in general, the Brewers are 41-15 since 2007.

After the Pirates, it's back home for a weekend series against Washington, which at 40-52, is in last place in the NL East. Adding to the Brewers' fortune, the Nationals won't start rookie phenom Stephen Strasberg during the series.

If the Brewers can build some momentum during those two series, they'll have a chance to really eat away in the division next week when the Reds -- currently a half-game behind St. Louis -- come to town for three games before finally getting a day off.

That series comes just two days before the trade deadline, so the Brewers should know by then whether they will be buyers or sellers on July 31.

Again, it's a long shot, but the Brewers still have a slim chance. Opening the second half by taking two of four from the NL East-leading Braves was a good start.

Capuano to start: With Doug Davis on the disabled list, Chris Capuano will start Monday when the Brewers face Pittsburgh.

Caupano has made just one start since returning to the Brewers after more than two years recovering from "Tommy John" surgery. He allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings on June 3 at Florida.

He's made seven relief appearances since, allowing two runs on nine hits with two walks and four strikeouts in 6.2 innings of work.

Considering his longest relief stint this year has been 1.1 innings, manager Ken Macha is only expecting Capuano to throw between 60-65 pitches.

Macha still sore: Macha met with Atlanta manager Bobby Cox before Sunday's game when Cox tried to clear the air over a rash of beanballs hurled at Milwaukee batters over the weekend.

Macha didn't pull any punches after Saturday's game, when Atlanta's Brian Venters threw over Prince Fielder's head and at Fielder's back on consecutive pitchers after an earlier home run.

"We talked about the situation," Macha told reporters after the game. "Bobby understands his side and Bobby understands my side." 

Brewers batters have been hit a league-leading 47 times this season. Macha says he would like MLB to institute some sort of review policy, similar to the way hard hits are reviewed in football.

Gallardo returns this week: Barring an unforseen setback, the Brewers expect Yovani Gallardo to start Thursday in Pittsburgh.

Gallardo went on the 15-day disabled list July 6 with a strained left oblique suffered July 4 in St. Louis.

Quick hits: C Gregg Zaun, out for the year with a shoulder injury, was a special correspondent for Canada's Rogers Sportsnet during the All-Star Game ... The Brewers have gone 41-15 against the Pirates since 2007 ... Over the last seven games, the bullpen is 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA (two saves) ...  Fielder and OF Corey Hart are tied for the National League lead with 22 home runs while the Brewers lead the league with 116 ... The Brewers have had 54 games started by lefties, the most in baseball ... An upcoming ESPN reality show will focus on the Brewers; "The Homestand -- Milwaukee" airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN ... Hart has a hit in 29 of his last 30 games and went 7-for-16 with a home run and five RBI against the Braves.

Injury report: RHP LaTroy Hawkins made a pair of rehabilitation starts last week with the team's Rookie League affiliate in Arizona. He'll throw next with Class AAA Nashville and is expected to rejoin the team during the Cincinnati series next week.

On the farm: RHP Kyle Heckathorn was promoted to Class A Brevard County after going 6-6 with a 2.96 ERA in 17 appearances with Class A Wisconsin ... RHP Eric Arnett was returned to the Timber Rattlers, with whom he went 0-7 with a 6.87 ERA in 12 starts before being reassigned to Rookie League Arizona.

He said it: "Has there been any shenanigans this year? No. OK then. So I think we should get that respect from the other clubs." -- Macha, on why his team seems to get hit by pitches so frequently.

NL Central standings (through games Sunday): 1, St. Louis, 51-41; 2, Cincinnati, 51-42 (-.5); 3, Chicago, 42-51 (-9.5); 4, Milwaukee, 42-51 (-9.5); 5, Houston, 37-55 (-14); 6, Pittsburgh, 32-59 (18.5).