Brewers stay hot, trip up Pirates 4-2
MILWAUKEE — Aramis Ramirez crushed a 1-2 fastball into the left-field stands, the breakthrough that the Milwaukee Brewers needed against a tough left-hander.
Once again, the third baseman delivered in a big spot.
Ramirez kept up his torrid hitting with a two-run homer to help back Wily Peralta’s solid start, and the Brewers extended their winning streak to seven with a 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
At 8-2, the Brewers are off to their best start since opening with 13 wins in 1987.
"Everything’s clicking. We’ll continue to grind this thing out as best as we can, but we’re doing a lot of good things," manager Ron Roenicke said.
Ramirez’s clutch hitting is at the top of the list. His 421-foot homer with two outs in the fourth gave the Brewers a 2-0 lead against Francisco Liriano, who had befuddled the Brewers with his slider.
Ramirez is hitting .727 (8 for 11) with runners in scoring position through the season’s first 10 games.
"I would say that’s part of job — I’m a cleanup hitter driving in runs, so I have to concentrate a little harder when I have guys in scoring position," Ramirez said.
Milwaukee missed his bat for stretches of the 2013 season, when he was bothered by a left knee injury. Now, the Brewers have their cleanup hitter back, along with No. 3 hitter Ryan Braun, who returned from a 65-game suspension that following baseball’s investigation of a Florida anti-aging clinic.
The Brewers added two more runs in the fifth on a solo shot by Mark Reynolds and a two-out single from Carlos Gomez.
"You can’t make too many mistakes in the big leagues. I was trying to go up and in and it went middle-in," Liriano said. "I made two mistakes and you can’t make those kinds of mistakes at this level."
Liriano (0-2) struck out seven over six innings. Peralta (1-0) allowed four hits in seven innings, but gave up a two-run homer to Neil Walker in the seventh.
Francisco Rodriguez struck out the side in the ninth for his third save.
Milwaukee has been an early-season surprise after sweeping through three-game sets at Boston and Philadelphia with a .320 batting average. The formula of solid hitting and excellent starting pitching carried over into Friday after Peralta struck out four and got help from Reynolds with two nice plays at first on hard-hit shots.
Pittsburgh didn’t get a runner past second base until Walker homered in the seventh. Andrew McCutchen had reached second twice on two-out steals, but Peralta retired cleanup hitter Pedro Alvarez each time to end the inning, including a strikeout on a slider in the sixth.
McCutchen was lifted following his eighth-inning at-bat after telling manager Clint Hurdle he may have hurt an ankle. The 2013 NL MVP appeared to be walking around in the clubhouse afterward without a limp.
"I had the trainer look at him and didn’t think it was worth having him try to press on from there," Hurdle said.
Milwaukee entered with a major league-leading 1.95 ERA, an impressive mark given that the team has played three games each in Fenway Park and Citizens Bank Park. Brewers starters were at 2.44, with the bullpen at a minuscule major league-best 0.98.
That mark only improved after relievers Jim Henderson and Rodriguez shut down the Pirates in order during the final two innings.
Liriano dominated early, keeping hitters off balance with his slider. He breezed through the first three innings with five strikeouts on 32 pitches.
NOTES: The Pirates entered having started the season by winning three straight series for the first time since 1992. … Pittsburgh is in the middle of a stretch in which it is starting the season with 26 straight games against NL Central foes. … LHP Jeff Locke was reinstated from the 15-day DL and optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Locke is recovering from a right oblique strain. … CF Gomez is to be presented with his 2013 Gold Glove award in a ceremony before Saturday’s game. … The Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo (2-0) faces the Pirates’ Edinson Volquez (0-0) on the mound Saturday night.