Milwaukee’s magic continues with 1-0 win in Pittsburgh
Coming off a start against Minnesota in which he allowed six earned runs in five innings, Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo finished with a season-high eight strikeouts and allowed just four hits and one walk in seven scoreless innings on Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Anyone who may have missed Sunday’s series finale between the Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates probably envisioned the uneventful pitcher’s duel a 1-0 score usually indicates.
However, Milwaukee’s 1-0 victory to win its fourth series of the season over Pittsburgh was far from ordinary — or easy.
Yovani Gallardo bounced back from a rough outing with his best start of the year, the Brewers made multiple run-saving plays on defense and Francisco Rodriguez worked out of two jams to record his first four-out save in three years.
It all added up to one of the best wins of the season for the Brewers, improving them to 38-26, Milwaukee’s best record on June 8 in franchise history.
"We had a lot of things go our way today," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "It was kind of a funny and crazy game. We lost the other day on some flares early, some cheap hits early. Today we come in and win on some cheap hits.
"There were kind of some funny situations, but you have to keep going out there and working hard and grind it out. It was definitely worth it."
Locked into a pitcher’s duel with Pirates starter Jeff Locke, Gallardo got better as the game went on. Pittsburgh had runners at the corners with one out in the first inning when Gaby Sanchez flew out to right. Ryan Braun proceeded to throw Neil Walker out at the plate to keep the Pirates off the scoreboard.
Pittsburgh had two on with one out again in the third, but Gallardo got Andrew McCutchen to pop out and then struck out Sanchez.
After hitting Russell Martin with a pitch to start the fourth inning, Gallardo retired nine in a row before the Pirates catcher led off the seventh with a single back up the middle. With runners at the corners and one out, Jordy Mercer tried a safety squeeze and reached to load the bases when nobody covered first base for the Brewers.
Gallardo, who was already over 100 pitches when the inning started, kept the Brewers in front by striking out Jose Tabata and getting Josh Harrison to pop out to first baseman Mark Reynolds.
"I think the first couple of innings I was still trying to find that rhythm," Gallardo said. "After that, I was able to get out of some big situations and make pitches. That’s always something positive to go from, especially in that seventh inning."
Coming off a start against Minnesota in which he allowed six earned runs in five innings, Gallardo finished with a season-high eight strikeouts and allowed just four hits and one walk in seven scoreless innings.
"I tell you what, that was the best I’ve seen him all year," Lucroy said of Gallardo. "He was really good, man. He was just locating, pitching in on people. He was really impressive today."
The Brewers got their only run Sunday in a bit of bizarre way. Lucroy hit a flare to left that just stayed fair. Thinking it was going to go foul, Lucroy didn’t run hard out of the box and may have been held to a single had a fan in a Pirates shirt not reached out and grabbed the ball to make it a ground-rule double.
"He thought it was going foul," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He probably lost the ball when he looked up and didn’t see where it was coming down the line.
"He would have gotten a double (had the fan not reached over). Marte went back behind that. If Marte would have come at an angle and gotten in front of it, but that ball was going to hit and come back."
Lucroy, who had three of Milwaukee’s four hits Sunday, moved up to third on fly out by Carlos Gomez and scored on a little cue shot groundball to first base off the bat of Aramis Ramirez.
After Gallardo worked out of the seventh-inning jam to keep the game tied, the Pirates threatened again in the eighth. Rob Wooten allowed a one-out double to McCutchen, who then went to third on a groundout.
With a day off tomorrow and a fresh closer in the bullpen, Roenicke went to Rodriguez for the four-out save. Rodriguez was locked into a battle with Martin when home-plate umpire Ed Hickox gave the veteran a bit of a break by calling a 3-2 curveball that appeared out of the zone a strike for the final out.
A look at where the pitch ended up on the various pitch trackers made it look closer than it appeared live, but that didn’t stop Martin and Pirates manager Clint Hurdle from getting ejected.
"Luc made that pitch look not as good as it probably was because he was in between trying to block, or in between deciding where the ball was going to end up," Roenicke said. "If you go back — this thing needs to even out some — go back and look at all the inside pitches that were definitely off the plate, how many of those they got during that ballgame. It was a lot. It was way more pitches than we got."
Rodriguez got the first out of the ninth inning before walking Starling Marte, a hitter mired in an 0-for-23 slump. Marte then stole second base, a call that needed to be overturned on instant replay.
After a walk to Ike Davis put the winning run on base, shortstop Jean Segura saved the game for the Brewers with a phenomenal diving stop and flip to second for the force out on a rocket hit back up the middle by Travis Snider.
"You can’t make a better play," Roenicke said. "A guy hits a bullet like that — you can’t make a better play."
Rodriguez still wasn’t out of trouble with the tying run 90 feet away, but Josh Harrison’s flare to center field stayed up just long enough for Gomez to corral it to end the crazy affair.
"I just stayed focused," Rodriguez said. "I think I lost my rhythm a little bit with (Marte). I made really bad pitches. I was trying to be too perfect and you saw what happened — I ended up walking him to put the tying run on and then the go-ahead run after that. I had to battle back and find a way to get back into the strike zone and make quality pitches."
The Brewers have been blown out in the series opener of each of their two trips to Pittsburgh this season, but they responded to win both of the series and now are 10-3 against their division rivals this season.
Milwaukee can get back to a season-high 13 games over .500 with a win against the Mets in New York on Tuesday.
"It makes you feel good to win a game like this," Lucroy said. "But we need to go into New York and hopefully get some momentum going toward those guys and win some games there."