If you looked back at every MLB game ever played, there’s a good chance that teams who produce eight runs in a single inning have a pretty fair record.
The Pittsburgh Pirates continued that tradition Friday night at PNC Park, burying the first-place Milwaukee Brewers 15-5 on the strength of an eight-run sixth inning. The blowout not only started the three-game weekend series on a positive note, it also improved the Bucs to 12-6 since May 18.
Pittsburgh (29-31) entered the evening seven games behind Milwaukee (36-26) in the NL Central, adding more significance to a matchup that rarely lacks for intrigue. The two clubs engaged in a memorable series in mid-April at PNC, featuring an Easter Sunday brawl and three straight comeback wins for the Brewers.
There was no rally for the visitors Friday night, although they gave it a go after the Pirates took a 3-0 lead through three innings. Milwaukee got a pair of runs back in the fourth, but Pittsburgh plated two in the fifth to restore the cushion before the sixth-inning explosion.
Very few of the Pirates were left out of the fun as they set a new season high for runs in a game. Russell Martin collected three of Pittsburgh’s 16 hits and four RBIs, while Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer each homered as part of two-hit, multiple-RBI nights. Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Travis Snider and Neil Walker also cashed in a pair of hits apiece.
Josh Harrison reached twice at the top of the lineup and scored a pair of runs, as did McCutchen, Alvarez and Mercer. Mercer drove in three runs, one of eight Pirates to knock home at least one.
McCutchen got things started with a run-scoring double in the first against Brewers right-hander Kyle Lohse. Martin added an RBI later in the inning, then McCutchen lifted his seventh homer of the season to straightaway left in the third.
Pirates starter Brandon Cumpton navigated the first three frames without major incident, but Aramis Ramirez (single) and Khris Davis (sacrifice fly) drove in runs in the fourth. However, Mercer sent a solo bomb into the left-field bleachers in the fifth, followed by Walker’s RBI single.
Davis brought home Carlos Gomez with a sixth-inning single as the Brewers pushed Cumpton out of the game. Justin Wilson relieved and struck out Mark Reynolds to end the Milwaukee threat, meaning Cumpton was charged with three runs in 5 1/3 innings – a decent rebound from his implosion in Los Angeles last Saturday.
Lohse faced just three batters in the home half of the sixth, as Martin, Alvarez and Tabata singled consecutively to raise the Pirates’ lead to 6-3. Tyler Thornburg took the mound next for the Brewers, and to say he struggled would be an understatement. Mercer singled in a seventh run, and Snider and Harrison walked to push home an eighth.
Thornburg nearly escaped the inning when he whiffed Walker and McCutchen back to back, but Ike Davis‘ bases-loaded walk made it 9-3, setting up Martin for a three-run double off the left-center field wall. Tabata earned his second RBI of the frame two batters later, capping the epic inning.