After Milwaukee’s convincing win behind a strong start from Marco Estrada, an offensive explosion, and Los Angeles’ blowout victory over the Cardinals, you can now just barely count the Brewers first-place lead on two hands.
In his best start with the team, Estrada (4-8) went seven strong innings, allowing only two runs with two strikeouts and no walks. The offense backed him up with a seven-run second inning in Pittsburgh.
After a Jonathan Lucroy RBI single to being the outburst, Estrada’s sac bunt turned into a two-base error on catcher Ryan Doumit as Jerry Hairston scored. Following up a Tony Plush RBI single to give the Brewers a 3-0 lead, Ryan Braun doubled over Andrew McCutchen’s head to score Estrada and Morgan, making it 5-0. With two men out, Casey McGehee capped off the pyrotechnics with a two-run home run to left, his second long ball in three days.
Prince Fielder drove in his 100th run to extend his NL lead in that category with a double in the 6th that scored Ryan Braun.
The Brewers will go ten games up in first place, setting a new franchise record for largest margin in front each time they win and the Cardinals lose. More importantly, their magic number will go down to 23, assuming the Dodgers hold on to an 11-0 lead over St. Louis out west.
Milwaukee improves their record away from the confines of Miller Park to 31-37. They have now won 10 of their last 12 games on the road.
Pittsburgh starter Ross Ohlendorf only struggled for the one inning, but he was desecrated by the “SWAT Team” of the Brewers offense enough in one inning to put the game seemingly out of reach against a sharp Estrada.
His changeup kept hitters off-balance but the command of his high 80’s-low 90’s fastball was what kept the Pirates in check. Batters weren’t swinging and missing at the changeup or slider with two strikes and the defense behind Estrada didn’t allow Pittsburgh to have any breathing room.
On the eve of the Sports Illustrated cover featuring Braun, Morgan, and Fielder, the 2-3-4 hitters for Milwaukee had 7 hits (4 for T. Plush), 5 RBI, 11 total bases, 5 walks, and scored four runs. Braun also stole two bases before being lifted after drawing a walk in the eighth inning for precautionary measures.
Making up an April rain-out, the Brewers and Pirates will play a twinbill on Monday, with the first game coming at 4:05 CST and the second starting thirty minutes after the first game’s conclusion.
Chris Narveson will be back from his thumb injury that landed him on the DL to start the first game for the Brewers. He will go against Jeff Karstens (9-6, 3.12) of the Pirates.
Zack Greinke (12-4, 3.92) is schedule to pitch the second game against Pittsburgh starter Brad Lincoln (0-0, 5.40).
Milwaukee is 8-0 against the Pirates this season, including a two-game sweep at PNC Park.
Nyjer Morgan knew it as soon as he hit it.
Bottom of the tenth, runners on second and third, one out. The table was perfectly set for Tony Plush, the alter ego of Nyjer Morgan. Pirates reliever Chris Resop leaked a first pitch fastball right down the middle, and Morgan didn’t miss it, hammering the ball to the wall in right field as George Kottaras jogged home for a walk off sac fly.
As soon as he made contact, Morgan flared his arms and watched the winning run score before being mobbed by teammates. The Tony Plush “T” sign that has become Milwaukee’s version of the Bat Signal was made by fans all around the stadium, Morgan, and even his teammates. After escaping the mob of Brewers, Sunday’s hero found an open space on the infield to lead the crowd in celebration.
After Kottaras singled just out of the reach of shortstop Ronny Cedeno, Casey McGehee, who had pinch hit for Felipe Lopez in the eighth, laced a double down the right field line to set the stage.
Pirates starter Charlie Morton had Brewers bats baffled all day long. He went 7 innings before allowing a runner to reach second, and was taken out as soon as Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy did with one out in the eighth with Pittsburgh up 1-0. The inning appeared to be over after Morgan struck out, but the ball popped away from Pirates catcher Chris McKenry allowing him to reach safely. Ryan Braun then roped a fastball from closer Joel Hanrahan back up the middle to allow pinch runner Jerry Hairston to score and tie the game.
Shaun Marcum was equally impressive, going 7 2/3 innings surrendering just one run on five hits. He struck out five and walked two. The lone run came on an Andrew McCutchen RBI double in the first inning.
The Brewers have now won all eight games against Pittsburgh this season, extending their dominance over their division foe.
In the ninth, John Axford struck out the side despite an error and a base hit. Takashi Saito escaped a bases-loaded jam in the tenth when Brandon Wood tapped one in front of the plate for Kottaras to grab and step on home. Saito picked up the win, improving to 3-1.
The over-capacity crowd of 45,103 stayed for Morgan’s heroics, creating the most exciting sacrifice fly anyone will ever witness. It is Morgan’s second walk off of the season, the first coming in June against the New York Mets on a double down the right field line.
Despite driving in his team’s only run, McCutchen left a team-high five men on base, popping out in the eighth and striking out in the tenth. McKenry also struggled, going 0-4 with two strikeouts.
The Brewers will keep riding the momentum as Los Angeles comes to Miller Park for a four game set starting Monday. The T.Plush hysteria most likely will not die down by then.
- Hart (RF)
- Morgan (CF)
- Braun (LF)
- Fielder (1B)
- McGehee (3B)
- Betancourt (SS)
- Hairston (2B)
- Lucroy (C)
- Estrada (P)
Update: K-Rod is okay to pitch today
By Curt Hogg
Coming off of a 5-1 road trip that included a sweep against Houston and an encouraging two-win series versus the Cardinals, the Brewers return to Miller Park to face the Pirates in a weekend series.
Probables: Friday: Maholm (6-12) vs. Greinke (10-4), Saturday: Correia (12-10) vs. Estrada (2-7), Sunday: Morton (9-6) vs. Marcum (10-3)
-As of just over two weeks ago, Pittsburgh was tied for first place with Milwaukee and St. Louis. Then the Brewers got hot and the Pirates couldn’t win a game, and now the Buccos are 10 games back along with Cincinnati.
-Marco Estrada is expected to spot start for Chris Narveson, who is on the DL with a cut thumb.
-The Brewers recently called up Frankie De La Cruz, who pitched a scoreless inning in his Major League debut Thursday.
It’s not the lighting, Mr. LaRussa, but the Brewers seem to be a much different team at the confines of Miller Park.
Their 41-15 mark is the best in all of baseball, ahead of the powerhouse Phillies by three games. Even though the team has turned things on the road around recently, it is clear they play better at home.
As if Miller Park hasn’t been good enough to the Brewers this year, it has been even better to them against the Pirates. Until the streak was broken last season, Milwaukee beat the Pirates at home in19 consecutive attempts. This season, Milwaukee is 5-0 against Pittsburgh, with two of those wins coming at PNC Park.
If the Brew Crew can continue their successes at home and against Pittsburgh, they have a chance to pull away from the Cardinals over the homestand.
Filling in For Narv-Dog
Yeah, I just made a reference to The Office. Get at me.
Back to baseball. As aforementioned, the Brewers will be without Chris Narveson for 2-3 weeks, and Marco Estrada is expected to fill in his starts. Ron Roenicke has listed Estrada as the probable starter for Saturday against Pittsburgh’s best starter in Kevin Correia.
There will be a few things that will be crucial to winning Saturday’s game, aside from the obvious; a solid five or six innings from Estrada.
Zack Greinke’s Friday start will be critical for Saturday’s game, as the bullpen will be needed in more than regular amounts in the latter of the two games. If Greinke can go seven or eight innings and rest the bullpen further (Axford, Saito, Hawkins, and K-Rod have only thrown one combined inning in two days), the group will be in good shape for Estrada’s start.
Roenicke expects a “solid five or six innings” from Marco, and if he can deliver the Brewers might be in a position for the sweep.
Throughout bot the Houston and St. Louis series, Milwaukee won games because of timely hitting. Coming through with runners in scoring position is often the difference in the game, and the Brewers were successful in those situations during the road trip. With a lack of home runs (Fielder and Hart were the only two that hit any over the trip), this is the key way to scoring runs.
The three starters the Brewers will face all have low HR/9 rates, with Charlie Morton’s being the lowest in the National League at 0.4. While this may have something to do with their home ballpark, it is safe to say the Brew Crew may not be hitting a ton of gopher balls over the weekend, which makes hitting with RISP all the more important.