MILWAUKEE — Marco Estrada wanted to take the ball and go back out there for the eighth inning. With the lack of depth the Brewers’ starting rotation has been giving the bullpen, it’s hard to blame him.
For the first time since May 13, a Milwaukee starting pitcher went seven innings, as Estrada set down the first 14 batters he faced en route to a 2-1 victory over the Pirates.
It was Milwaukee’s first victory when scoring fewer than three runs this season, as Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett held the Brewers to just two runs on three hits in seven innings.
“Once I looked out and saw my pitch count was at 100, I thought ‘I guess I did my job,'” Estrada said. “You always want to do more. I wish I could have thrown a complete game and given the bullpen a couple of more days rest. Gave the team a chance to win, which is what matters.”
Estrada was the one who last went seven innings for the Brewers, but the last time he walked off the mound at Miller Park was after one of the worst outings of his career against St. Louis on May 5.
He looked like a totally different pitcher Friday night, commanding his pitches well while throwing his curveball and change-up for strikes.
“I’ve been struggling a lot with my curveball and I felt like today I threw a lot of them for strikes,” Estrada said. “I just build off of that. I had really good fastball command and I had a lot of swings and misses on the change-up, or weak contact.”
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker broke up Estrada’s perfect game and no-hit bid by blooping a single to left with two outs in the fifth inning.
Setting the first 14 batters down to start the game was just part of Estrada’s quick start. The right-hander established a quick pace and good rhythm right away, something he’s taken from teammate Kyle Lohse.
“He’s quick,” Estrada said of Lohse. “He just grabs the ball. He doesn’t really walk around the mound and do much. He just gets the ball and goes. Throws a lot of strikes. You try to mimic that. I’ve always try to keep a good pace going, and tonight I thought I had a really good one.”
The fifth inning is about the time thoughts of a possible no-hitter can creep into heads of those at the game, but Estrada had one goal in mind: Getting the Brewers a much needed win.
“I knew once the curveball was there, I guess that’s when I figured it could be a good night,” Estrada said. Let’s just not think about it, keep throwing them up there and keep it going from there.
“I try not to think about (the no-hitter) because I feel like it can be a distraction. Then you try to be too perfect. I was just focused on getting guys out.”
With the bullpen taxed and two spot starts looming within the next four days, Milwaukee needed an extended outing from Estrada. Friday started a stretch of 20 games in the next 20 days, meaning seven strong innings and a victory went a long way.
“That’s an outstanding way to start it off,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “Pittsburgh’s been hot. He did a great job getting ahead in the count, finishing guys when he needed to and we got a couple breaks today, too. That was good.”