Pirates get the bats going, knock off Brewers to take 4-game series
The Pirates used all of their weapons Thursday and rolled to a 7-1 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park.
They got an effective — at times dominant — effort by left-hander Francisco Liriano. A fantastic catch by Andrew McCutchen. Travis Snider's 458-foot homer, which tasted Allegheny River water. And even a timely stolen base by ... would you believe, Pedro Alvarez?
The Pirates took the series by winning three straight games against Milwaukee for the first time since 2010. Last season, the Brewers went 11-4 against the Pirates, including a 5-1 mark at PNC Park.
With one-fourth of the season done, manager Clint Hurdle likes what he sees.
“I like the direction we're headed,” he said. “I like the effort and attitude we're putting out there.”
It began with Liriano (2-0), who racked up seven strikeouts over 52⁄3 innings in his first start for the Pirates at PNC Park. He adds more punch to a rotation that already boasts NL strikeout leader A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez.
“Our depth has never been better,” Hurdle said. “The rotation has been pretty good, and I think it has every opportunity to be better.”
The Pirates took the lead by scoring two runs in the fifth inning off righty Hiram Burgos (1-2). Starling Marte got it started with a bunt single.
Snyder launched Burgos' next pitch over the seats in right-center for his first home run. The ball bounced on the concourse, rolled down the grassy hill and plopped into the river.
“For me, it's not about how far it goes,” Snider said. “It's about getting it over the fence. That's been a struggle for about nine months now.”
The Brewers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Nori Aoki drew a five-pitch, leadoff walk but was caught stealing. Jean Segura singled to left.
Ryan Braun crushed a first-pitch fastball, but McCutchen made a leaping catch up against the center field wall.
“That was amazing,” Liriano said. “I thought that ball was gone, but he made a great catch.”
Segura stole second, then scored on Jonathan Lucroy's single. Liriano had Lucroy 0-2 but put a changeup where Lucroy could slap it into center.
After the bumpy, 17-pitch first inning, Liriano struck out the side in the second.
Yuniesky Betancourt went down swinging, chasing three straight sliders. Liriano got ahead of Rickie Weeks with sinkers, then froze him with an 88 mph slider. Alex Gonzalez fell behind 1-2 against a couple of nasty sliders, then swung through a 94 mph two-seam fastball.
An unlikely stolen base and a gaffe by Braun enabled the Pirates to tie it in the fourth.
With two outs, Alvarez drew a non-intentional walk for only the seventh time in 136 plate appearances. Alvarez then stole second base — just his third career steal. The ball bounced into the outfield, but by the time Alvarez realized it, he had no chance to try for third.
Clint Barmes stroked a fly ball to deep left. Braun didn't run at full speed, then pulled up short of the warning track. Perhaps he expected the ball to fly into the bleachers. It didn't. The ball landed at the base of the wall and kicked out onto the track. Alvarez scored with ease on the double.
Starling Marte began the fifth with a bunt single. Third baseman Betancourt made a good scoop but had to hurry his throw, and the ball popped out of first baseman Gonzalez's mitt.
Snider launched Burgos' next pitch over the seats in right-center. The ball bounced on the concourse, rolled down the grassy hill and plopped into the river.
In the sixth, the Pirates used five consecutive hits off reliever Alfredo Figaro to produce four runs.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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