Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano has been one of the best pitchers in the National League this season and went into his start Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park in a four-way tie for the league lead with 15 wins.
That total remained unchanged after the Brewers hammered Liriano for seven runs in just three innings en route to a 9-3 pasting of the NL Central Division leaders. The Crew salvaged the final game of their six-game homestand and snapped a five-game losing streak in the process.
The floodgates opened for Milwaukee as they batted around in the bottom of the third against Liriano (15-7), whose ERA climbed from 2.57 to 2.98 after allowing seven runs on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts in three innings.
With the score tied 2-2, Norichika Aoki led off by lining a single to left and moved up on Carlos Gomez’s bunt single that Liriano couldn’t field cleanly. Jonathan Lucroy laced a ground-rule double that hopped the wall in left to score Aoki and make it 3-2 and Ramirez followed with a double of his own into the gap that brought home two more runs.
After Davis struck out, Yuniesky Betancourt roped a single to left to put runners at the corners.
Bianchi chopped a ball back to Liriano, who dropped it before he was able to at least get Bianchi at first, but another run scored to make it 6-2. Martin Maldonado walked, but Liriano uncorked two wild pitches while Wily Peralta was at the plate to bring Betancourt home from second and it was 7-2.
Pittsburgh scored first on an RBI single by Jordy Mercer with two outs in the top of the second, a fluke play on a grounder that tipped off the glove of diving third baseman Aramis Ramirez when it appeared Jeff Bianchi—starting at shortstop for Milwaukee because Jean Segura was ill—was in position to make the play. That came after Pittsburgh grounded a couple of singles through the infield to get a runner into scoring position.
Khris Davis gave the Crew the lead in the bottom of the second, blasting his ninth home run of the season high and far into the seats in left-center field after Ramirez led off the frame with a walk.
Pittsburgh tied it in the top of the third when Marlon Byrd singled home a run.
Andrew McCutchen led off the fifth inning with a homer to left-center field, his 19th of the year, to bring the Bucs to within 7-3 and that’s where things got interesting. McCutchen stood at the plate for a long time after hitting the ball, but replays showed he had trouble locating where it was hit.
Peralta was not amused and plunked Justin Morneau on the very next pitch. The dugouts and bullpens emptied briefly, but the game went on without incident.
Milwaukee added two more runs off rookie Stolmy Pimentel—making his major-league debut—in the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Bianchi and an RBI single by Maldonado.
Peralta (9-14) got his first win in nearly a month—his last was Aug. 6 at San Francisco—by working six innings and scattering nine hits and allowing three runs with a walk and six strikeouts. Michael Gonzalez and Donovan Hand combined to work the seventh, Rob Wooten pitched a scoreless eighth and Burke Badenhop got the final three outs.
Pittsburgh did get back closer Jason Grilli, who made his first appearance since July 22, when he went on the disabled list with a strained forearm. Grilli allowed a hit and struck out two in his one inning of work.
Every Brewer starter except for Peralta had a hit. Aoki was 3-for-5 and Ramirez scored three runs and drove in two after going 2-for-3 with a walk.
It was the final meeting between Milwaukee and Pittsburgh this season, with the Bucs taking the season series 12-7, but with the win, the Crew avoided being swept at home by Pittsburgh for the first time since April 30-May 2, 2004.
The Brewers and Pirates will both be off on Thursday. Pittsburgh goes to St. Louis for a pivotal series in the NL Central race with the Cardinals, while the Crew heads to Wrigley Field to play the Chicago Cubs Friday afternoon, Saturday afternoon and Sunday afternoon.
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