Brewers edge Pirates on Eric Thames’ 8th-inning HR
MILWAUKEE — Eric Thames is figuring out how to excel as a part-time player. Much to the dismay of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Thames homered leading off the eighth inning to lead the Milwaukee Brewers past the Pirates, 2-1, on Sunday. The Pirates dropped two of three in the series against their NL Central nemesis.
Thames, who has served as a backup first baseman and outfielder this season, entered as a pinch-hitter in the sixth and struck out. Leading off the eighth, he blasted an 0-1 pitch from Pirates reliever Kyle Crick (3-4) to straightaway center, a 432-foot shot that hit just below the scoreboard, for his 12th homer of the season.
Thames also homered in Milwaukee’s win Saturday night.
“I told myself in spring training that regardless of what happened in regard to playing time, I was just going to stick to my routine, keep working and good things would happen,” Thames said. “Last year, my thumb got hurt, and I wasn’t able to perform as a pinch-hitter. I got so caught up in the results that I spiraled out and didn’t make the (postseason) roster.”
Even though he’s faring better this year, it can still be a struggle to enter a game in the late innings.
“That first at-bat tonight, I felt like I was on Mars,” he said. “It’s tough being a pinch-hitter in the big leagues. You can’t work an at-bat on a reliever who throws 96 with rise and sink and a nasty slide. You have to get something to hit and swing.”
Melky Cabrera had a run-scoring single in the first for the Pirates.
Pirates starter Steven Brault allowed one run and five hits but lasted just 4 2/3 innings after throwing 97 pitches.
“My misses today were small,” Brault said. “This is a really good lineup. They were able to capitalize on a few mistakes, and they were laying off some pretty good pitches.”
Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman had his hitting streak halted at 19 games.
Milwaukee moved into a first-place tie with the Chicago Cubs, who lost to Cincinnati. The Brewers finished their homestand at 5-5.
Jeremy Jeffress (2-2) pitched a scoreless eighth, and Matt Albers worked the ninth to pick up his first save of the season. Milwaukee held Pittsburgh to two runs in two games.
“They are more than a hitting team,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Milwaukee’s Zach Davies, who had an 8.10 ERA over his previous four starts, allowed one run and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked two and struck out two. He also drove in the Brewers’ first run with a two-out single in the fourth after the Pirates intentionally waked Manny Pina.
Pirates catcher Elias Diaz was checked by a trainer and remained in the game after being called for catcher’s interference in the fifth when Ryan Braun’s bat struck his glove on a swing. Diaz took a foul tip off his right hand later in the game but stayed on after another visit from the trainer.