Conrad’s HR ends slump, Brewers top Pirates

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Brooks Conrad ended his season-long drought with a bang.

Conrad homered for his first hit of the year after an 0-for-27 start and drove in three runs to lead the injury-depleted Milwaukee Brewers past the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1 Saturday night.

“It’s never very fun to go oh-for-whatever to start it out,” Conrad said. “But all along I stayed with the same approach and stayed as positive as I could. And it paid off today. I got a hit there in a big spot and came through for the team.”

Shaun Marcum (4-3) pitched seven strong innings for Milwaukee, giving up five hits while striking out eight without a walk.

Pirates starter Erik Bedard (3-6) lasted just 3 2-3 innings. He allowed five hits, five runs and three walks in his shortest outing of the season other than a May 9 game against Washington that he left in the second because of back spasms.

Cody Ransom had a two-run single for Milwaukee and Rickie Weeks — hitting just .158 coming in — reached base all four times with two hits and two walks. Weeks also stole two bases as the Brewers bounced back from an ugly 8-2 loss to the Pirates on Friday.

Milwaukee has won five of six. Pittsburgh had won two in a row and six of seven.

“We still have a good group of guys where if you lose here and there, nobody gets down on themselves,” Marcum said. “We know we’ve got a good team. We know we’ve run into some injury problems, but the guys that have come up have done a great job of filling in and playing the game the right way, playing the game hard. And that’s all you can ask.”

The injuries kept mounting Saturday.

Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez came out in the seventh inning with a left quadriceps strain and will be re-evaluated by team doctors Sunday. Manager Ron Roenicke called the injury a “slight pull” and said Ramirez could have stayed in the game.

Milwaukee also was without slugger Ryan Braun, who aggravated his right Achilles tendon injury and strained his right hip sliding into second base Friday.

Roenicke said it’s possible neither Braun nor Ramirez will play Sunday. The team has a day off Monday.

Those are the latest in a series of injuries that have beset the Brewers, making Conrad’s role all the more important. The utility player, starting at first base, delivered Saturday — finally.

“It’s a tough thing to deal with, obviously, but to be a winning team guys off the bench have to step up,” he said. “That’s why it felt so good tonight to finally come in and get the job done.”

Conrad had a sacrifice fly in the second to put Milwaukee up 1-0 after the Brewers loaded the bases with no outs.

Garrett Jones’ homer in the fourth tied it at 1.

Milwaukee responded with four runs in the bottom half. Ramirez led off with a single and Weeks doubled. Ransom, hitless in his last 13 at-bats, followed with a two-run single and Conrad smacked an opposite-field homer just over the wall and into the picnic area in right field.

“Those curveballs that I hung, they took advantage of them,” Bedard said. “The home run, I don’t know how it went out, but it went out.”

The swing ended a painful streak for Conrad.

The former Atlanta Braves infielder signed a minor league contract with the Brewers in January, with an invitation to spring training. He didn’t make the opening-day roster and began the season at Triple-A Nashville. He was hot early, hitting .400 with five homers and 13 RBIs before a May 4 call-up to help replace infielder Mat Gamel after his season-ending knee injury.

After going 0 for 21 with Milwaukee, Conrad was optioned back to Nashville on May 19. He didn’t stay down long. He hit five homers with 15 RBIs in six games with the Sounds from May 21-26, and the Brewers recalled him Monday.

“It got him on the board, so that was good,” Ransom said. “We were excited for him. I’ve known Brooksy for a long time. He’s a grinder.”

Added Marcum: “You root for guys like that, that come in, put the hard work in. They can sometimes go through struggles, even though they’re working their butt off.”

Both starters were coming off wins. Bedard gave up two hits in six scoreless innings in a victory against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday. Marcum allowed six hits and one run against the Los Angeles Dodges on Monday, striking out nine.

“Not too bad,” Marcum said of his performance Saturday. “We were mixing pitches, changing speeds on everything. And the main thing was keeping the ball down and obviously not falling behind on counts and walking people.”

That wasn’t the case with Bedard.

“Every starting pitcher is going to have a sideways game. That was his sideways game so far this season,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It was his overall command. The curveball wasn’t in play at all. He couldn’t throw it for strikes and they weren’t chasing it. The changeup wasn’t effective. He was just below average across the board and threw way too many pitches in the fourth inning.”

NOTES: Ransom made a spectacular play in the sixth, diving on a hard-hit grounder by Neil Walker up the middle and then, from his stomach, flipping the ball to Weeks, who barely beat Jones to the bag for the force out. … It was Cerveceros Day at Miller Park. Both teams wore Spanish-language jerseys, and Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo took pregame batting practice wearing a large foam sombrero. … Brewers RHP Mike Fiers makes his second major league start Sunday after winning first one in impressive fashion Tuesday against the Dodgers (seven innings, five hits, one run, no walks, three strikeouts).