Brewers cruise past Pirates, move closer to playoff berth
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Milwaukee Brewers used their power to put the Pittsburgh Pirates on the ropes. Some heads-up baserunning — and more than a little help from the mistake-prone home team — pushed the Brewers closer to the club’s fifth playoff berth in franchise history.
Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw and Mike Moustakas all hit homers and Milwaukee scored three times on one wild pitch in the sixth inning to break it open as the Brewers cruised to a 13-6 victory on Sunday.
Yelich finished 2 for 3 to boost his batting average to an NL-leading .322 as Milwaukee won for the third time in four games to bolster its chances of reaching the postseason for the first time since 2011.
The Brewers (89-67) hold the top NL wild-card spot and remained 2½ games behind the first-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, as well as two games ahead of St. Louis, which has the second wild-card position. Both rivals also won Sunday.
“We won the series. We put ourselves in a good spot,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Got, again, nice work from the bullpen. We’re in good shape.”
The Pirates were eliminated from playoff contention when the Cardinals beat the Giants.
Yelich’s hit his 32nd home run of the season in the second — a three-run blast off Nick Kingham (5-7) — and Shaw followed two batters later with a towering shot that bounded over the right-field seats and into the Allegheny River to give Milwaukee a quick six-run lead.
“Jumping out against them is huge,” Shaw said. “We haven’t had much success against them. So, to build an early lead was big. They responded, we responded right back. Pretty good day overall for everybody.”
Moustakas, acquired in a midseason trade with Kansas City, added his 28th homer of the season, eight of them with Milwaukee. Corey Knebel (3-3) picked up the win in relief after starter Wade Miley failed to record an out during a rocky fifth inning after the Pirates drew within 7-4. Knebel struck out the next three batters and the Brewers were back in control.
“That’s a big inning (from Knebel),” Counsell said. “It stops their momentum. They certainly had it at that point. They were feeling good and right back in the game.”
When the Brewers weren’t knocking the ball around PNC Park, the Pirates were more than happy to help. Milwaukee scored five runs in the sixth with the ball leaving the infield just once. Poor pitching and comical defense by the Pittsburgh did most of the hard work.
The Brewers loaded the bases off Pittsburgh reliever Steven Brault, who was then replaced by Michael Feliz with two outs.
Feliz walked in a pair of runs, and three more Brewers scored when his wild pitch skipped toward the Milwaukee dugout. Jesus Aguilar trotted home, Ryan Braun raced in behind Aguilar, and when the throw from Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell got away from Feliz covering the plate, Orlando Arcia scored all the way from first to make it 12-4.
“Never seen that,” Arcia said. “Once the wild pitch started and once I noticed that Braun was scoring too, I figured I had to be ready to see where the throw was, in case it was a bad throw, which it happened to be.”
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle simply called it a “bad baseball play.”
“Whether there’s confusion or lack of effort or a combination of it going on there? I’m not sure,” Hurdle added.
Pittsburgh shortstop Jordy Mercer and second baseman Josh Harrison hit consecutive two-run doubles during a four-run outburst in the fifth. Two of the team’s longest-tenured players exited to loud ovations when they were removed in the eighth in what was likely their final appearance at PNC Park as a member of the home team.
Mercer will become a free agent in the offseason, and the team is likely to decline the $10.5 million club option on Harrison, a two-time All-Star. Both were vital parts of Pittsburgh’s run to three straight playoff appearances from 2013-15. On the day the Pirates were officially eliminated from postseason contention in 2018, they tried to drink in the moment.
“It shows the game is going to go on with or without you,” Harrison said. “It’s cool for me and him to see it through with each other. Could be worse. Could be here by ourselves, either him or me or in that aspect. It’s cool to have somebody who was my first friend when I got here see it through with me.”
Brewers: CF Lorenzo Cain went 2 for 5 in his return to the lineup. Cain missed two games and was limited to pinch-hitting duty on Saturday night with an intercostal strain in his ribs.
Pirates: CF Starling Marte was removed after experiencing tightness in his left calf while running down the first-base line in the fourth inning. ... C Francisco Cervelli (gastrointestinal discomfort) should return to the lineup in Chicago on Monday. ... RHP Edgar Santana is scheduled to undergo tests on Monday after exiting Friday night’s game with tightness in his right arm.
Brewers: Head to St. Louis for a pivotal three-game series with the Cardinals, who occupy the second wild-card spot. Chase Anderson (9-8, 3.93 ERA) starts on Monday against Jack Flaherty (8-8, 3.08).
Pirates: Begin a four-game series in Chicago on Monday against the Cubs. Jameson Taillon (13-9, 3.24) faces Chicago’s Cole Hamels (9-10, 3.90).