Pirates rally way past rival Brewers for rare win at Miller Park
MILWAUKEE — Starling Marte didn't lead off the Pirates' 6-4 win over the Brewers with a hit Wednesday, which was noteworthy: He entered with an MLB-best .636 batting average in the first inning.
But in the eighth inning, he did something more meaningful. Marte tied the game with a single lightning-quick swing, and he helped the Pirates avoid a sweep and secure a winning road trip.
Marte turned around a 95 mph John Axford fastball, crushing a two-run shot that slammed off the facade of the concourse beyond the left-center field wall and tying the score, 4-4. Brandon Inge followed with his third game-winning hit of the road trip, an RBI single to right off Axford (0-3), to put the Pirates ahead for good.
“I know (Axford) throws me fastballs,” Marte said. “I was ready for a fastball.”
The four-run eighth allowed the Pirates to secure a sixth win on the 10-game road trip. The Pirates began by taking three of four at Philadelphia — including three straight wins in games started by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee — and then won a series at St. Louis before traveling to Milwaukee.
Another clutch hit — Pedro Alvarez's RBI single in the eighth — gave the Pirates a rare win at Miller Park, a building that been a personal house of horrors. The Pirates are 8-46 in Milwaukee since 2007.
Alvarez and Michael McKenry added solo homers in the victory, which snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Brewers.
“It's a great finish to a 19-game stretch and a very solid road trip,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We come to play regardless of the noise around us. We understand the situations and challenges, but we are going to play. Today was the perfect example of a game where probably some people thought we weren't in a good place.”
Starting in place of former starter Jonathan Sanchez, who was designated for assignment a day earlier, Jeanmar Gomez failed to pitch into the fifth inning. Over four innings, Gomez allowed four hits, three runs — two earned — and two walks. He struck out three.
Gomez's sinker seemed to be an ideal pitch to combat Miller Park, which surrendered seven home runs Tuesday. But Gomez's sinker was not sinking often enough. In the fourth, he left fastballs elevated to Carlos Gomez and Yuniesky Betancourt, who hit back-to-back home runs and staked the Brewers to a 3-1 lead.
Hurdle said before the game if Gomez offered the Pirates “something significant” he could be considered for another start. Instead, Gomez became the latest Pirates pitcher to fail to log a quality start. The Pirates can afford to skip their fifth starter until next weekend's series at New York, when Francisco Liriano, who is pitching well at Triple-A Indianapolis, is expected to be added to the rotation.
“We have some options in front of us,” Hurdle said.
Hurdle was limited with his bullpen options this series. The Pirates lead the National League in relief innings pitched, and Hurdle wanted to give some of his bullpen arms rest. So in the seventh, he left left-handed Justin Wilson in to face Brewers' right-handed hitting shortstop Jean Segura, who is batting .500 (13 for 26) against lefties this year. Segura ripped an RBI single to center to give the Brewers a 4-2 lead.
But after the four-run eighth, which gave Bryan Morris (1-1) his first major league win, Hurdle called on trusted arms Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli, who remained perfect in holding and saving leads. Grilli's save was his NL-leading 11th.
“It's always big to stop a losing streak,” Morris said. “This team is resilient.”