The Pittsburgh Pirates won only five games in the season series against Milwaukee in 2010. That’s the same as in 2009, and either result is better than the sole win in 2008.

But this year, the Pirates showed signs of building a base for better success against the Brewers in the future.

In his debut performance in August 2008, an otherwise mediocre pitcher named Jeff Karstens scored a breakthrough win against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Two years later, the Pirates went on to dominate the Cubs 9-3 so far in their season series (9-6 if the Bucs lose all three games of the upcoming final series).

The same Jeff Karstens managed a breakthrough win against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park earlier this year, ending their streak of 22 home wins going back to 2007. Maybe this is a sign that the Pirates will win the season series in 2011 or 2012.

Yes, the Pirates won only five games against the Brewers this year. But five of the losses were close (by one or two runs, including an extra-inning game Saturday night that was “tied” at the end of nine).

Next year is the low-budget Brewers’ last year of club control of Prince Fielder (he may be traded mid-year if Milwaukee decides not to keep him). This follows their loss of Ben Sheets and (“rented” pitcher) CC Sabathia in 2008, a year in which both pitchers contributed to the team’s dominance over Pittsburgh.

On the other hand, the Pirates introduced several new faces to the lineup this year in Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker, among others. These are players that might win the close games for the Bucs next year when they become more seasoned.

Earlier this year, it’s true that Milwaukee was responsible for some of Pittsburgh’s most resounding losses, 20-0 and 17-3. But a team can win (or lose) only one game at a time. The combined 37-3 deficit affected only two games.

Elsewhere in the division, the Pirates recently showed signs of life against the St. Louis Cardinals by winning two out of three (although they’re still 3-6 for the season). And they have a respectable 5-7 tally so far against the division-leading Cincinnati Reds, based on a sweep early in the season.

It’s the otherwise weak Houston Astros that have given the Bucs the most trouble in 2010 (10-2). But there was a reversal of a similarly lopsided 2006 season series in Pittsburgh’s favor in 2007.

The Pirates can climb out of the cellar by beating one team at a time. For now, they still trail the fifth-ranked Cubs overall.

But they figure to add one or more “scalps” next year. If the Bucs can beat most teams in their division, they will ipso facto pull themselves out of last place. If they can start beating all the teams in their division, they might even be contenders, if only in the National League Central.

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