Good vibes continue as Pirates enter All-Star break with another win
It was only a week, and it only lasted 24 at-bats.
But Bryan Reynolds never had experienced such a hitting slump in his young career.
On the day before the All-Star break, Reynolds hit a tiebreaking three-run homer in the seventh inning, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-5 win against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.
“Slumps happen,” Reynolds said. “Just trying to shorten them as much as you can and learn from them, learn what you’ve got to do to your swing, little things you’ve got to change and be better because of it.”
The same can be said for the Pirates. They bottomed out in last place and eight games under .500 after a seven-game losing streak in early June. But the Pirates are 5-1-1 in seven series since, including taking three of the past four series. All of those came against teams that were in first place at the time.
The Pirates have won 14 of their past 21 games and eight of 12 to pull within 2½ games of the first-place Chicago Cubs. After four days off, the Pirates and Cubs play three games next weekend at Wrigley Field.
A sweep could put the Pirates in first place with 70 games left in the season.
After an injury-riddled first half, they have to feel good about where they sit, right?
“Oh my gosh, how could we not?” manager Clint Hurdle said. “From where we’ve been and what we’ve done?
“It’s important what I believe, but it’s more important what (the players) believe. And they believe they’re knocking on the door and in the hunt. They continue to fight. They continue to work. I like the way our team’s playing right now.”
Sunday’s win didn’t come easy. Although the Pirates never trailed, the Brewers tied it 3-3 in the seventh on Jesus Aguilar’s second homer of the game. And a half-inning after Reynolds restored the lead, Keston Hiura pulled Milwaukee back within a run with a two-run homer off Kyle Crick.
After Felipe Vazquez came on and gave up a bloop single to Aguilar, Mauricio Dubon grounded out weakly to end the eighth. Vazquez, who was added to the All-Star team Saturday, then worked the ninth to finish his fifth save of more than one inning this season.
Vazquez allowed the tying run to get aboard via a leadoff single by Tyler Saladino before Lorenzo Cain grounded into a double play to end it. The crowd of 17,624 had its celebration briefly delayed by a replay challenge by Brewers manager Craig Counsell.
Joe Musgrove had a strong outing other than giving up the seventh and eighth home runs of the season by Aguilar. Musgrove allowed three other hits and one walk with five strikeouts. At one point, he retired 11 consecutive batters and 16 of 17.
Musgrove returned after a 40-minute rain delay at the end of the fifth inning, and he pitched a scoreless sixth despite Yasmani Grandal’s two-out double. Musgrove had thrown only 77 pitches at that point, but two batters into the seventh, the score was tied. Eric Thames took three consecutive high fastballs to draw a walk, and Aguilar followed with a homer to center.
Before that pitch, Musgrove had allowed two runs over his previous 22 innings. The Pirates have won all four of his starts in that time, which coincides with the team’s surge.
“I think everyone is kind of on top of their game right now,” Musgrove said. “Our pitching and hitting are starting to come together at the same time, and we’re starting to put together some really good ballgames.”
Colin Moran and Kevin Newman had two hits each and scored a run for the Pirates. Adam Frazier went 3 for 5 to wrap up a seven-game homestand in which he went 18 for 30.
“It’s a big turnaround,” Reynolds said of the past 3½ weeks. “I don’t think any of us were really panicked about it. That’s the ebbs and flows of baseball, and I think we learned from it and really, really turned it on this past week to give us a little momentum going into the All-Star break when we can reset, relax a bit and keep it going.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .