After extra days off and bullpen sessions, Marco Estrada bounces back to remain unbeaten vs. Pittsburgh.
By ANDREW GRUMANFS Wisconsin
Marco Estrada had one of the worst outings of his career the last time he took the mound.
After an extra two days off with two extra bullpen sessions with Brewers pitching coach Rick Kranitz, Estrada bounced back with his best start of the season. The right-hander allowed just three hits and one run over seven innings to help Milwaukee snap its four-game losing streak with a 5-1 victory in Pittsburgh.
"That's impressive," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said of Estrada's bounce-back performance. "That's what you hope for, but to turn it around that quick is difficult. He commanded the ball just like he did last year when he was on. He had a live fastball today which really helped, but his change-up and breaking ball were outstanding."
The extra rest allowed Estrada to clear his head mentally while spending his time with Kranitz working on his timing in the bullpen. His mechanics and command were all out of sync May 5, as the Cardinals got him for eight runs in just 3-1/3 innings.
Estrada admitted he felt lost on the mound that day, but Monday night was a different story. In complete command the whole night, Estrada gave the Brewers a pitching performance they badly needed.
"It was just timing," Estrada said. "I still made a few bad pitches here and there but the timing of everything was pretty good. Once I got that down, once I got it going, mentally I knew I can locate a couple of things here and there and it just makes pitching a little easier. Whereas the last outing I had no timing and no consistency. I had it today and obviously it worked."
Estrada improved to 3-0 at PNC Park with the win, a stadium where fly ball pitchers like Estrada can thrive.
"It's a pretty big ballpark," Estrada said. "I'm more of a fly ball pitcher, I think. There were some balls that were hit pretty well where in Milwaukee they were probably out. Here they were camped underneath them for pop flies. Maybe (it's) the confidence that I can throw more strikes and not being afraid of giving up a home run."
Offensively, the Brewers used six stolen bases and numerous infield singles to score just enough against Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett. With Pirates catcher Michael McKendry throwing out just one base runner in 14 attempts against him entering play Monday, the Brewers had a plan to run all day, and it worked.
The top of Milwaukee's order did most of the damage, as right fielder Norichika Aoki and shortstop Jean Segura combined to go 6-for-10 with four RBI, two runs scored and five stolen bases.
"Burnett is one of the toughest pitchers in the league," Segura said. "He strikes out a lot of people. We focused on getting on base. They didn't have a great arm behind the plate, and he was slow to the plate. We took advantage of it and we scored a couple of runs because of that.
"It feels pretty good. We played a bad series against Cincinnati. This win is important for us to keep ourselves up. We have to keep playing and keep grinding."
While the win was important for the Brewers in general, Milwaukee needed Estrada to get back on track just as badly as it needed to as a team.
"Anytime you go out and give your team a chance to win it feels good regardless if I had pitched a bunch of games in a row that were good," Estrada said. "I guess having two bad outings in a row and then coming out here and finally getting back on track felt really good. It was just great to give the chance to win, that's all that really matters to me."