Brewers pull one from the fire late
For two straight nights, the Milwaukee Brewers have made the kind of mistakes that usually lead to losses, yet they have found a way to take both games from a division foe.
Instead of the storyline being a couple of defensive miscues leading to a five-run fourth inning for Pittsburgh, Ryan Braun homered twice in the final three innings to help the Brewers steal a victory from the Pirates.
Braun’s two-run shot off Pirates closer Jason Grilli in the top of the ninth was the difference in Milwaukee’s 8-7 win Saturday at PNC Park, improving the Brewers to a major-league best 13-5 on the young season.
"We won another game that we probably shouldn’t have won," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
After making four errors in Friday night’s win, the Brewers opened the door for Pittsburgh’s big inning Saturday by mishandling a pair of balls on the infield. Matt Garza walked Andrew McCutchen to start the bottom of the fourth but appeared to have erased the free pass by getting Pedro Alvarez to hit into a double play.
Second baseman Rickie Weeks booted what was a routine double-play ball, allowing everyone to be safe. Jose Tabata followed with what was ruled an RBI single but was a play Aramis Ramirez usually makes at third base.
After a walk to load the bases and a lineout for the first out, Garza gave up a two-run single to Clint Barmes and a two-run single to Travis Snider. Suddenly a 4-1 lead had turned into a 6-4 deficit for the Brewers.
"Just a bad defensive inning," Roenicke said. "Matt still needs to come out and make better pitches. He’s got good stuff. I know we played poorly behind him in that inning, but I still think he has good enough stuff where he can get out of innings. It shouldn’t get away from us that much."
With the Pirates up 7-5 in the seventh inning, Braun connected for his first home run of the night, a missile of a line drive that went out to dead center.
Milwaukee still trailed by a run entering its last at-bat, knowing it needed to score at least a run against a pitcher it hadn’t scored against in nearly seven years. Grilli entered Saturday with a streak of 17 consecutive scoreless outings against the Brewers, but Braun ended that.
Jean Segura singled on an 0-2 pitch with one out in the inning to set up Braun, who hit the first pitch he saw from Grilli to nearly the exact same spot his first home run went to.
"He has been one of the best closers and best relievers in baseball the past few years," Braun said. "You know it is going to be a challenging at-bat, so first chance that I get to see a pitch that’s hittable, put a good swing on it. I was able to do that tonight."
Braun, who has been battling a nagging thumb injury for most of the season, has hit all five of his home runs in two games, both coming in the state of Pennsylvania. He hit three home runs against the Phillies on Apr. 9 and had his 20th career multi-homer game Saturday night in Pittsburgh.
"That first ball he hit out, to hit a ball out to dead center here is hard enough, but that ball was on a line," Roenicke said. "He back spun that thing the whole way."
While some of the defensive miscues in this series could be a cause for concern down the road, the Brewers are overcoming stretches of poor play to win games. Winning when you don’t play well can go a long way in keeping a team in the race.
"It’s very encouraging," Braun said. "We really haven’t played well the past few nights, made a lot of mistakes. Good teams find a way to win games they aren’t supposed to win and the last two nights we’ve been able to do that. That’s very exciting moving forward."
Roenicke took the last two nights as a sign of how well other phases of the game are working for the Brewers in order to rise above defensive mistakes.
"Things are going really well when you play the way we have the last two games and you still win the games," Roenicke said. "Something is going really well, either the pitching is going really well or the offense is to allow you to get ahead and win ballgames. And those things are going really well."
Moving up: By shutting the door in the ninth inning Saturday, Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez tied hall of famer Goose Gossage for 20th on the all-time saves list with his 310th career save.
Up next on the list for K-Rod? Tom Henke sits in 19th place with 311 saves.
Rodriguez moved to a perfect six-for-six on the year in save opportunities by retiring Andrew McCutchen on a grounder to third and getting Jose Tabata to hit into a game-ending double play after hitting Alvarez with a pitch.
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