Miller Park has not exactly been paradise for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but they made it their playground this weekend, winning 5-4 over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday to earn a series victory.
The Pirates struck first against Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo. Following a Michael McKenry walk, the bottom of the order came through as Jordy Mercer connected on an RBI triple to center field.
The momentum continued in the third inning, when they scored three runs. While those were important, perhaps more important was the fact that the Pirates were patient against Gallardo, making the ace throw plenty of pitches.
Starling Marte, who had seen his hot start fade away and lead to a bit of a cold streak, led off the inning with a double. With two runners aboard, Garrett Jones hit a sacrifice fly to score Marte. Following a walk, Pedro Alvarez hit a double that plated Andrew McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez.
Wandy Rodriguez started for the Pirates, and the Brewers continued to struggle against lefthanded pitching. Rodriguez appeared dominant at times through four innings, but the fifth gave him trouble.
Rickie Weeks led off with a single and three batters later Norichika Aoki singled to start a two-out rally. Rodriguez appeared to get some defensive help when Jean Segura grounded out to a diving Neil Walker, however Walker’s throw was not in time to get the hustling shortstop, loading the bases. Ryan Braun then grooved a pitch into the left-field corner, clearing the bases.
That would be the final inning for Rodriguez, who threw 98 pitches and allowed the three runs to score in his final inning of play. Gallardo was already out of the game at that point as he lasted just four innings and threw 94 pitches.
Pittsburgh scored in the top half of the sixth inning to make it 5-3. Again the bottom of the order came through as McKenry doubled and Mercer hit a bloop single. Brandon Inge came in to pinch-hit for Rodriguez and struck out after a small battle with reliver Donovan Hand.
The out was still productive as Mercer aggressively stole second base in the final pitch of the at-bat. Had Weeks been on the base, a second out would have been almost guaranteed. Marte hit a sacrifice fly next to give the Pirates their run.
Vin Mazzaro pitched two innings of two-hit ball, coming out of the bullpen to give the Pirates a needed spark. The Brewers had an opportunity to make a dent in the seventh inning, but with runners on first and third, Braun grounded out to Walker. Normally, because of where Braun hit the ball, the runner on third would have scored, but Walker moved over because Segura tried to steal. This play was ultimately a large factor as the game may have turned had the run scored.
Mark Melancon pitched the eighth and Jeff Bianchi hit a triple that was not hit hard or far, but found the short right-field corner, causing Travis Snider to make a long run. A Carlos Gomez sacrifice fly made the score 5-4.
Relievers Mike Gonzalez, Brandon Kintzler and Francisco Rodriguez kept the Pirates off the scoreboard in the last three innings, meaning Jason Grilli would try to protect a one-run lead.
Grilli faced little trouble in the ninth inning, needing just nine pitches to notch his MLB-leading 20th save of the season in 20 opportunities.
The Pirates, 10-2 in their last 12, now have won at least 15 games in both April and May. Now though, a difficult portion of their schedule starts with a four-game home-and-home interleague series with the Detroit Tigers.
Francisco Liriano (3-0, 1.00 ERA) hopes to continue his hot start against former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander (5-4, 3.66). The game is scheduled to start at 1:08 p.m. Eastern.
Projected starters for series
Monday: Francisco Liriano vs. Justin Verlander
Tuesday: Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.75) vs. Rick Porcello (2-2, 6.28)