Regardless of the park, Brewers continue to have way with Pirates
Regardless of the park, regardless of the lineup, the Brewers continue to perplex the Pirates.
Milwaukee sat star Ryan Braun (stiff neck) and second baseman Rickie Weeks but still dominated the Pirates, 5-1, on Monday at PNC Park.
The loss snapped the Pirates' three-game winning streak.
The Pirates double- and triple-coded signs during their trip to Miller Park last month, perhaps suspicious that their futility at the Brewers' home could be linked to sign stealing. But the Brewers have been nearly as successful at PNC Park in recent years, improving to 24-12 at the Pirates' home since 2008.
Another familiar theme was Pirates starter A.J. Burnett (3-4) having quality stuff but lacking run support.
“It's just one of those nights,” Burnett said, “nothing went our way.”
Burnett raised his National League-leading strikeout total to 72 with six strikeouts that came via his sweeping curve and a firm fastball. He was good enough to win, allowing four runs — three earned — and seven hits over seven innings. He did not a walk a batter.
But when the Pirates face Brewers starter Marco Estrada (2-3), there typically is not much margin for error.
Estrada entered with a 6.05 ERA, but he is now 7-3 with a 2.17 ERA in 10 starts against the Pirates. Estrada pitched seven innings, allowing one run on three hits, walking one and striking out one.
“He moves the ball around the plate in the strike zone,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Estrada. “He spots up his fastball. We haven't had a lot of success against him.”
Brewers outfielder Nori Aoki provided Estrada with all the run support he needed, going 3 for 5 with two runs and three RBIs. Aoki led off the game with a double and scored on a Carlos Gomez infield RBI single.
Burnett held the Brewers to one run until the fifth when Aoki plated Logan Schafer with an RBI double and scored on a Jean Segura RBI single, giving the Brewers a 3-0 lead.
Estrada did not allow a run until Gaby Sanchez doubled in the seventh and scored on a Pedro Alvarez groundout, cutting the deficit to 4-1. Alvarez had his average fall below .200 again, going 0 for 3 with an RBI.
The Pirates continue to miss Russell Martin's arm and veteran presence. Martin missed his fourth straight game with a neck injury. The Brewers ran at will against backup catcher Michael McKenry, stealing six bases in six attempts. McKenry is just 1 for 23 in throwing out baserunners this season.
“The thing is I don't know how many great jumps they had,” Burnett said. “I don't think they had a great jump.”
Segura continued his torrid sophomore campaign, stealing three bases.
“They have more team speed than anybody in this league,” Hurdle said. “Everyone in the lineup runs with the exception of (Aramis) Ramirez.”
Neil Walker, who hadn't played since April 26 in St. Louis when he suffered a laceration to his right hand, was activated from the DL and went 0 for 4, though he did drive the ball twice, flying out to the center-field warning track in the fifth inning. Walker was pleased he was able to barrel up several pitches in his first game back.
Perhaps in warmer weather Walker's fifth-inning fly to center, or Andrew McCutchen's seventh-inning drive to the left-field warning track, would have left the park. But the game-time temperature was a cool 51 degrees, and the Pirates continue to remain cold against the Brewers.
“I really can't name one particular thing,” Walker said. “We have to do better in all aspects.”