Travis Snider launched a pinch-hit home run in the top of the ninth off Milwaukee Brewers closer Jim Henderson to break a tie and propel the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-3 victory at Miller Park on Tuesday night, ensuring the Pirates will not have a 21st consecutive losing season.
The win was No. 81 of the year for Pittsburgh, which last finished with a winning record when it went 96-66 and won the National League East in 1992.
For the Brewers, it was their fifth consecutive loss since returning home from a 4-2 road trip to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and once again, it was the bullpen that was the culprit.
Since John Axford was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals late Thursday night, the Brewer bullpen—one of the best in the National League this season—has been awful, surrendering 13 runs on 19 hits in 13 innings—a 9.00 ERA with a 1.769 WHIP. Over the five-game losing streak, the relief corps is 0-3 with two blown saves and has surrendered at least two runs in each game.
Snider’s homer was the last swing of the pendulum in a game that went back and forth all night.
The middle of the Pirates’ order—No. 3 hitter Andrew McCutchen, cleanup hitter Justin Morneau and fifth-place hitter Marlon Byrd—did the bulk of the damage for Pittsburgh, accumulating seven of the Pirates’ eight hits, accounting for three of the four runs and reaching base 10 times in all.
McCutchen got the scoring started in the first, driving a long home run to left-center field with two outs. It was the All-Star center fielder’s 18th home run of the season and the 100th of his career.
Milwaukee bounced right back in the bottom of the first. Norichika Aoki walked to lead off the inning against young fireballer Gerrit Cole and when Byrd couldn’t quite get to a looping liner by Jean Segura, the Crew had runners at second and third with no one out. Jonathan Lucroy lined the first pitch he saw from Cole to right field to score both runners and give the Brewers a 2-1 lead.
The heart of the Pirate order struck again in the third and did it again after two men were out. McCutchen lined a two-out single to center, went to third on Morneau’s single through the left side and scored when Byrd lined a single to right.
Yovani Gallardo continued his strong pitching since returning from the disabled list last month. The Milwaukee right-hander took a no-decision after working seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
With the score still tied at 2-2, the Crew turned the eighth inning over to Brandon Kintzler, who ran into trouble against the same part of the lineup that plagued Gallardo earlier in the game. With one gone in the inning, McCutchen worked a walk, went to third on a nifty hit-and-run single by Morneau into the vacated hole at shortstop and scored when Byrd doubled down the left-field line. Kintzler wound up needing 37 pitches to get through the eighth, but avoided any more damage when he was able to coax pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez to fly out to center field with the bases loaded.
Milwaukee bounced right back in the bottom of the eighth. Caleb Gindl, batting for Kintzler, led off the inning with a walk, moved up to second on Aoki’s ground out and scored when Segura lined a single to center. The inning came to a premature end, however, when Lucroy hammered a ground ball up the middle that shortstop Jordy Mercer got to because he was breaking toward second with Segura running for an easy double play.
The Brewers had a chance in the ninth after Henderson surrendered the homer to Snider, his fourth of the year but first since June 15.
With two outs, Scooter Gennett lined a double into the right-field corner. But Pirate closer Mark Melancon got Khris Davis to chase a full-count breaking ball in the dirt to end it.
The teams conclude the series—and the season series that Pittsburgh leads 12-6—Wednesday night at Miller Park. Game time is 7:10 p.m. Central Time on Fox Sports Wisconsin, with Wily Peralta (8-14) pitching for the Brewers and Francisco Liriano (15-6) slated to work for the Pirates.
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