Pirates rout 1st-place Brewers
Who needs Gregory Polanco? Not the Pirates. Well at least not Friday in a Pirates' 15-5 rout of the first-place Brewers.
Polanco did not have a locker in the Pirates' clubhouse Friday. He was not to be found in right field at PNC Park after several reports earlier this week had the club's top prospect arriving for the series opener against the Brewers. The Pirates' future right fielder was still in Indianapolis on Friday, where he led off the Triple-A game with a home run.
The Pirates likely will soon make room for Polanco, who projects as a five-tool impact player. But they did not need him in producing their biggest inning of the season, an eight-run sixth inning Friday, taking out frustration against Milwaukee (36-26), which entered having won eight of 10 games against the Pirates (29-31) this season.
The Brewers' record against the Pirates in large part explains the six-game gap between the teams in the standings.
In the sixth, Russell Martin, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata began the inning with three straight singles as part of a 16-hit effort. Tabata's hit scored Martin and knocked Brewers starter Kyle Lohse from the game. Lohse was replaced by Tyler Thornburg.
Jordy Mercer, who homered in the fifth, singled to score Alvarez. Travis Snider walked to load the bases, and Josh Harrison followed with a walk to force in Tabata and give the Pirates an 8-3 lead. After Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen struck out, Ike Davis walked to score Mercer. Martin followed with a bases-clearing double to give the Pirates a 12-3 lead. Alvarez walked, and Tabata singled to push the Pirates' lead to 13-3.
“You're having fun, and you want to join the party,” Mercer said. “A night like tonight was a lot of fun.”
In one inning of relief, Thornburg allowed five runs, three hits and four walks.
“We were able to barrel some balls up and took some walks,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was just a good inning. It was the best we've had all year.”
Harrison continued his one-man crusade to stall Polanco's arrival. The Pirates' right fielder began the game with a single to extend his hitting streak to nine games, during which he is hitting .421. He scored on a McCutchen double for the game's first run. In the bottom of the second, he made a sliding catch to rob Carlos Gomez of a hit, and he scored his second run of the game in the sixth.
While the Polanco watch continues, it is starting pitching that remains the Pirates' big question.
Coming off an awful outing in Los Angeles, in which he allowed 11 runs in 3 2⁄3 innings, Brandon Cumpton was better.
In making his third straight start since replacing Wandy Rodriguez in the rotation, Cumpton began with three scoreless innings but was knocked out of the game in the sixth. He allowed 10 baserunners, eight hits and two walks over 5 1⁄3 innings. Cumpton was charged with three runs.
Said Cumpton: “I just put my head down and kept going to work.”
Cumpton cruised until the fourth, when he allowed a single to Jonathan Lucroy, and Gomez followed by crushing a double off the right-center wall. Gomez later scored on a Khris Davis sacrifice fly to cut the Pirates' lead to 3-2 after three innings.
In the sixth, a Davis single reduced the Pirates' lead to 5-3. Cumpton was pulled for reliever Justin Wilson.
While Cumpton's fastball has added velocity, he lacks a dominant breaking ball and throws his changeup sparingly making him susceptible to trouble the second and third time through a lineup. Cumpton's ERA rests at 6.51 through five starts this season.
“He used his fastball to both sides of the plate,” Hurdle said. “His aggressive nature returned.”