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.