Pirates fall to Brewers 1-0 as race tightens
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Andrew McCutchen wore a bandage over his aching left forearm, the bruise the result of his latest run-in with an opponent’s fastball.
The Pittsburgh Pirates star center fielder is getting all too used to the routine. He can deal with it if his team ends up in the playoffs.
They’re still in the driver’s seat for the National League’s second wild-card spot, but Milwaukee isn’t going quietly. Starter Matt Garza was ejected after drilling McCutchen twice and the Brewers touched closer Mark Melancon for the game’s only run in the ninth for a 1-0 victory on Saturday night to pull within 3 1/2 games of Pittsburgh with eight days left in the regular season.
“There’s always tomorrow,” McCutchen said. “I’ll be ready to go then.”
If anything McCutchen took solace in the umpire’s decision to toss Garza. McCutchen spent 15 days on the disabled list in August with fractured rib cartilage, an injury that popped up shortly after he was plunked in Arizona by reliever Randall Delgado. Major League Baseball decided not to discipline Delgado for the pitch, a decision McCutchen called disappointing.
This time umpires acted, throwing out Garza when he grazed McCutchen while trying to work inside with the bases empty and two outs in the fifth.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle called it “the right decision.” McCutchen doesn’t think Garza was trying to send a message, but that doesn’t mean he was thrilled with the outcome.
“You’re going to get hit, it’s going to happen,” McCutchen said “Frustration doesn’t matter. He didn’t try to hit me but he got it in and I’m sure he’s thinking it better he hit me than me hit him with a homer or double or something.”
No chance of that. McCutchen didn’t have an official plate appearance after getting hit for the eighth and ninth time this season and drawing two walks.
“They weren’t trying to throw it too much to me today,” he said.
Garza insisted he wasn’t throwing at one of the game’s most dangerous hitters.
“If people think I hit McCutchen on purpose, with a 1-2 count in a game like this, then you’re just an idiot,” he said.
Garza was long gone by the time the Brewers finally pushed in front. Elian Herrera reached on a forceout off Melancon in the ninth and moved to third on Lyle Overbay’s second double of the night. Herrera scored when Logan Schafer’s fly to left was just deep enough.
Zach Duke (5-1), a former All-Star with the Pirates, picked up the victory after getting the final out of the eighth. Francisco Rodriguez worked a perfect ninth for his 43rd save of the season and 347th of his career, moving him into a tie with Randy Myers for 10th on the all-time list.
The Pirates left 10 runners on base and went 0 for 8 with men in scoring position. Pittsburgh loaded the bases with one out in the eighth but Starling Marte lined to third and pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez grounded out to short against Duke.
“The pitchers were out there and kept putting up zeroes,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We had some opportunities and couldn’t push a run across and they got one late.”
Pittsburgh starter Edinson Volquez retaliated after the first plunking by throwing inside to Milwaukee star Ryan Braun, earning a warning to both benches, making Garza’s ejection automatic.
McCutchen called the intensified policing of inside pitching the result of a fastball to the face of Miami star Giancarlo Stanton earlier this month that ended his spectacular season.
“I pretty much knew that was going to happen, somebody was going to get hurt, somebody was going to go down,” McCutchen said. “Now people getting thrown out of the game. Hate that it had to come to that.”
Volquez lacked Garza’s crispness early, needing 52 pitches to labor through the first three innings alone, but continued his remarkable bounce back season. The pitcher who went 9-12 with a 5.71 ERA a year ago while pitching for San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers lowered his ERA to 3.15 by keeping the Brewers off the scoreboard before exiting in the seventh.
“I think I’ve been pitching better from the stretch,” Volquez said. “I’m an old guy now and I know how to control those situations and make good pitches.”
Brewers: RHP Wily Peralta (16-10, 3.70 ERA) makes his 31st start of the season on Sunday. He is 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA in four career starts against the Pirates, all of the starts coming at Miller Park.
Pirates: RHP Vance Worley (7-4, 3.18 ERA) returns to the rotation after making a brief move to the bullpen when Charlie Morton was taken off the disabled list. Worley is 0-3 with a 5.48 ERA in four career starts against Milwaukee. He gave up four runs on 12 hits in a 4-3 loss to Milwaukee on Aug. 24.