Pirates send slumping Brewers to 4th loss in 5 games, back into tie for 1st in NL Central
PITTSBURGH — The deficit came quickly, and kept growing.
And the Milwaukee Brewers never caught up.
The Pittsburgh Pirates sent Brewers starter Junior Guerra to his worst game of the season and rolled to a 7-3 victory Friday, beating Milwaukee for the second straight night.
Guerra (6-6) yielded six runs, nine hits and two walks in four innings. He struck out four.
“I don’t think he had good command of the fastball,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Guerra, who had won his past three starts. “They swung the bats well against him. A lot of balls in the middle that got hit. Just one that he’s going to wipe out. It wasn’t very good.”
The Pirates scored three runs in the first inning on Gregory Polanco’s sacrifice fly, an RBI single by Colin Moran and Josh Bell’s run-scoring double.
Polanco hit his 14th home run of the season in the fourth inning.
The Pirates added two more in the fifth when Moran scored on Bell’s double with the aid of Lorenzo Cain’s error. Jordy Mercer then drove in Bell with a double.
“We got ourselves behind tonight — and too far behind,” Counsell said.
Bell, who finished 4-for-4, drove in Moran again with a triple in the eighth as the Pirates won for the fifth time in six games.
Milwaukee has lost four of five and fell into a tie for first in the NL Central with the Chicago Cubs, who rallied to beat San Diego in 10 innings Friday night in San Diego.
The Brewers’ slide has come as they finish the first half on a stretch of 21 games in 20 days, but Counsell brushed off any notion of fatigue.
“We’re 90 games in and we’ve got 70 games to go,” he said. “That’s not time to be tired.”
Nick Kingham (4-4) tied a career high with nine strikeouts and allowed three runs over 6ª innings. Kyle Crick got four outs for his second save of the season.
“We’re gonna need to score some runs. It was quiet there for a bunch of innings,” Counsell said. “We just never put stress on (Kingham).”
Brewers reliever Brandon Woodruff, recalled from Class AAA Colorado Springs, pitched three innings of one-hit relief and hit his first career home run.
“That’s something that not everybody, especially a pitcher gets to do,” Woodruff said. “It’s definitely special.”
Milwaukee optioned right-handed reliever Adrian Houser to the minors.
Bell had two doubles and a triple as part of his four-hit night. He came into the game with two extra-base hits in July and was slugging .378, third-worst among qualified first basemen.
He credited a change in mindset rather than anything mechanical.
“It’s just one of those things where you get your butt kicked so many times in this game, you’ve kind of got to take a step back and realize that sometimes it’s you making it harder than it is,” Bell said. “Just trying to take a step back and allow them to come to me.”
Brewers outfielder Eric Thames left the game in the second inning with right hamstring tightness.
Thames suffered the injury while playing a ball hit into the right field corner. He was replaced by Hernan Perez.
He was replaced by Hernan Perez. Thames finished the game 0 for 1 and is hitting .250 on the season with 13 home runs and 28 RBIs.
It was the 14th start of the season in right field for Thames. He’s also started 21 games at first base and five in left. He has received more playing time in the outfield thanks to the emergence of All-Star first baseman Jesus Aguilar.
Brewers right-hander Chase Anderson (6-6, 3.18 ERA) is scheduled to start the first game of a doubleheader Saturday, with left-hander Brent Suter (8-5, 4.53) in the second game.
The Pirates will send out Ivan Nova (5-6, 4.50) followed by fellow right-hander Clay Holmes (0-1, 7.11), who is expected to be recalled from Class A Bradenton as the 26th man. It will be Holmes’ second major league start.