Brewers 2, Pirates 1
Poor starting pitching has been to blame for much of the Milwaukee Brewers' losing ways over the past few weeks. Marco Estrada worked to change that Friday night.
Estrada gave up one run over seven innings and retired the first 14 batters he faced in leading the Brewers to a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Milwaukee had lost 16 of 20 games entering the contest, while the Pirates had a four-game winning streak snapped and lost for just the third time in 14 games
''He had great location today. His fastball was live. He really located it well,'' Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. ''He pitched up when he needed to. He had a good breaking ball and a good changeup and commanded all of his pitches.''
Estrada (4-2) didn't allow a hit until a two-out bloop single to left field by Neil Walker in the fifth inning. He struck out eight and didn't walk a batter. He fanned eight of 12 Pittsburgh batters at one point.
''I've been struggling a lot with my curveball. I felt like today that I threw a lot of them for strikes. I just built off of that,'' Estrada said. ''I had really good fastball command and I had a lot of swings (and) misses on the changeup.''
Roenicke opted to remove Estrada after seven innings.
''I didn't realize my pitch count was at 100. I wanted to go back out,'' Estrada said. ''You always want to give more. I wish I could have thrown a complete game and given the bullpen a couple more days rest, but I gave the team a chance to win.''
Estrada improved his career record to 5-0 against the Pirates, including eight starts.
''He didn't leave many balls over the plate,'' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He is tough on us. He is just able to step up and really get the ball in locations he wants to against us. Sure we had a couple balls to hit but it wasn't easy by any means.''
Estrada said he's been attempting to mimic the fast-paced pitching of teammate Kyle Lohse.
''He just gets the ball and goes. He throws a lot of strikes,'' Estrada said. ''Everyone is more alert. It showed today with the defense. I was so quick.''
Four Brewers relievers combined to record the final six outs. Francisco Rodriguez retired the final batter to record his first save of the season and 295th of his career. Rodriguez's last save came last July 18.
Rodriguez entered the game after Brewers closer Jim Henderson sustained a right hamstring injury while attempting to field a hard grounder off the bat of Russell Martin.
''He felt his hamstring grab on him,'' Roenicke said. ''We'll re-evaluate it tomorrow and see where we are. I don't think it's just going to be a day.''
Roenicke said he's unsure if he'll name a closer if Henderson is out for an extended period.
''I don't know if we want to go with just one person. We may look at the matchups and see what they are every night,'' he said.
Rodriguez said he's prepared to close if called upon, but expressed concern for his injured bullpen mate.
''That's the last thing you want to see,'' Rodriguez said. ''Jim's been doing such a good job and to see him go down like that is not good at all. Hopefully, we can have him as soon as possible.''
Estrada outpitched Pirates starter A.J. Burnett (3-5), who gave up three hits and two earned runs over seven innings. Burnett struck out six and walked two. He retired 17 of the final 19 batters he faced. The Brewers managed just four hits for the game.
''Once I got some work in, I settled down and got to where I needed to be,'' Burnett said. ''That is a heck of outing from both guys. You may beat me but you will never out-compete me.''
The Brewers scored their only runs of the game in second inning. Aramis Ramirez led off the inning with a walk. After Martin Maldonado struck out, Carlos Gomez laced an opposite-field, line-drive double that just missed hitting Ramirez, who was leading off first base. Ramirez and Gomez scored on Alex Gonzalez's one-out double.
''That was big. It was a good pitch and Alex went down and got it. It was smart hitting,'' Roenicke said. ''We certainly needed to get a lead and with the way Marco pitched we held on.''
The Pirates didn't threaten until the sixth inning, when Starling Marte tripled down the left-field line with two outs. Estrada struck out Travis Snider to end the inning. Pittsburgh finally got to Estrada in the seventh when
Walker hit a two-out double, scoring Martin, who reached on a fielder's choice.
''(Estrada) made pitches when he had to. We didn't give ourselves enough opportunities to capitalize,'' Walker said. ''When he has been really good, this is the game he throws.''
Notes: Estrada laced an opposite-field single in the fifth inning, one of only three hits against Burnett. ''He threw me a fastball and I'm pretty sure he missed. I just made contact and it found a hole,'' Estrada said. .The Brewers placed starting pitcher Hiram Burgos on the 15-day disabled list. Relief pitcher Tom Gorzelanny was reinstated from the DL. . Burnett entered the game with a National League-leading 79 strikeouts. The only other Pirate pitcher since 1900 to have at least 79 strikeouts by the end of May is Bob Veale, who had 81 in 1966. Burnett added six strikeouts to his season total Friday night .The game marked the start of stretch in which Milwaukee will play 20 games over 20 days. .Estrada threw 100 pitches, 73 for strikes. Burnett threw 99 pitches, 65 for strikes. .The Brewers won for the first time in 20 tries this season when scoring three or fewer runs.