Brewers continue winning ways with timely hitting, quality pitching
MILWAUKEE — For three innings, Francisco Liriano looked like the man to finally slow down the Milwaukee Brewers.
Such was not the case.
Despite having no-hit stuff early on, Liriano made a couple of mistakes that were capitalized on, as the Brewers got a strong pitching performance from Wily Peralta in a 4-2 victory Friday night over the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of 27,469 at Miller Park.
Milwaukee has now won seven straight games to move to 8-2 on the young season, the franchise’s best start to a season since the Brewers began 13-0 in 1987.
It was a legitimate thought to wonder if the Brewers were going to be able to get a hit off Liriano let alone score after the left-hander sat the first nine batters he faced down, five on strikeouts. His slider and changeup were on, and that’s usually a sign of trouble for the opposition.
"The first three innings was vintage (Liriano)," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The fastball command, fastballs in, the change-up, the slider for a wipe-out pitch. There’s such a fine line on the mound sometimes."
Carlos Gomez gave the Brewers their first baserunner by drawing a leadoff walk in the fourth inning and was standing on third base when Aramis Ramirez blasted a 1-2 fastball from Liriano for a two-run home run.
Ramirez, who is now hitting .727 (8-for-11) with runners in scoring position this season, has driven in a run in eight of Milwaukee’s 10 games in 2014.
"I would say that’s part of my job," Ramirez said. "I’m a cleanup hitter driving in runs. I have to concentrate a little harder when I have guys in scoring position."
With Liriano rolling, Ramirez said the Brewers needed to put some runs on the board to allow Peralta to relax on the mound. After Peralta worked a scoreless top of the fifth inning, Mark Reynolds crushed a first pitch fastball an estimated 440 feet to put the Brewers up 3-0.
Carlos Gomez continued to stay hot at the plate by driving in Rickie Weeks with a two-out single later in the fifth inning.
"He pitched real well the first three innings," Reynolds said. "He was keeping us off balanced with his changeup and slider and wasn’t throwing very many fastballs. I think the next time through the order he tried to get ahead with the heater, and we were just ready for it."
Peralta’s only hiccup came after a throwing error by Ramirez allowed Russell Martin to reach to start the seventh inning. Neil Walker hit a 1-0 fastball into the seats in right-center field to cut Milwaukee’s lead to 4-2.
The young right-hander was able to bounce back and retire the next three batters to get through seven innings at exactly 100 pitches.
"We were able to get some runs to give me the lead early," Peralta said. "I was able to set the tone after that and put some zeros on the board."
Peralta came out of the gates hitting 98 miles per hour on the stadium radar gun with command, usually a sign a good outing is on the horizon. After shoddy defense allowed him to only work five innings in his first start, Peralta completed seven frames Friday, something he did just six times in 2013.
Dating back to 2013, Milwaukee’s starting pitchers have allowed three earned runs or fewer in a franchise-record 24 consecutive game. The streak is the fourth longest of its kind in the big leagues since 1990.
"I think the command with the ball — when he knows it’s coming out well, he gets confidence," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "And that’s not to say he can’t get into the fourth, fifth sixth inning and all of a sudden not lose it again. But usually when it’s good that first inning, he’s usually going to roll."
For just the ninth game in his career, Peralta pitched to Jonathan Lucroy behind the plate instead of Martin Maldonado. Lucroy had caught just 36 2/3 of Peralta’s 183 1/3 career innings coming into Friday, but everything went smoothly against the Pirates.
"It doesn’t matter," Peralta said. "I’m just focused on one pitch at a time, locating my pitches. Whoever is catching doesn’t really bother me."
The four runs on Liriano held up because of stellar work from Milwaukee’s bullpen. Jim Henderson and Francisco Rodriguez each tossed scoreless frames to lower the Brewers’ bullpen ERA to a Major League-best 0.91.
Timely hitting, quality starting pitching and a lights-out bullpen is why the Brewers have the best record in baseball through 10 games, and the script was the same Friday night.
"It’s fun," Reynolds said. "It’s always fun when you are winning. It takes care of a lot of things. But it’s a marathon and not a sprint. We can’t control yesterday, we can’t control tomorrow. We have to play the game that is now and worry about that day."
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