Pirates lose game, All-Star McCutchen
MILWAUKEE — It's no secret why the Milwaukee Brewers are off to their best start in 27 years.
On Thursday, the Brewers just completed a six-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies.
During that road trip, they batted .320 and lowered their team ERA to 1.95, tops in the majors.
On Friday, they returned to Miller Park to face the Pirates.
“We're catching them at the right time,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said dryly before the game. Sarcasm aside, Hurdle pointed out that no team is invincible.
“We know we can win here, and we know we can get these guys out, but we've got to make pitches,” Hurdle said. “You've got to be aggressive. You've got to make them feel uncomfortable.”
Left-hander Francisco Liriano followed that plan but only for three innings. The Brewers scored two runs in the fourth and two in the fifth and cruised to a 4-2 victory.
Milwaukee is riding a seven-game winning streak, and its 8-2 record is its best since 1987.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who is hitless in his past 10 at-bats, left the game in the eighth inning due to discomfort in his left ankle.
“He came to me in the dugout after his last at-bat and said, ‘I think I did something to my ankle,' ” Hurdle said. “I got the trainer to look at him. I didn't think it was worth him pressing on (in the game) from there. That's all the information I have.”
McCutchen walked through the clubhouse without an apparent limp but did not stop to talk to reporters. An initial diagnosis and X-ray results were not immediately available.
After going 0 for 3 Friday, McCutchen is batting .194 with a .661 on-base plus slugging percentage, no homers and three RBIs.
Liriano (0-2) went to his changeup often through the first three innings, throwing it on 15 of 32 pitches, including 12 for strikes. He retired the side in order in each inning.
“It's basically (a matter of) completing his delivery, getting that full turn in, holding his backside and delivering the ball,” Hurdle said. “Anything short of that, and there's arm drag, he's not able to locate, the spin isn't there, the changeup isn't there and the fastball command isn't as effective.”
Liriano ran into trouble in the fourth. The changeup wasn't as reliable. He got ahead 0-2 against Carlos Gomez. But a pair of changeups didn't find the zone, and Gomez drew a leadoff walk.
With two outs, Liraino tried to slip a 93 mph fastball past Aramis Ramirez, who yanked it into the left-field seats for his first homer of the season.
“You cannot make mistakes in the big leagues,” Liriano said. “I was trying to go up and in, but it stayed middle in.”
Ramirez leads the team with nine RBIs and is 8 for 11 (.727) with runners in scoring position.
In the fifth, Mark Reynolds launched a two-seamer over the left-field wall. Rickie Weeks also connected with a sinker and doubled. Gomez looped an RBI single off a changeup to make it 4-0.
The Pirates were held in check by right-hander Wily Peralta, who scattered four hits over six innings. In the seventh, Russell Martin reached on an error, and Neil Walker homered to right-center.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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