Brewers fall to Pirates on walk-off homer
PITTSBURGH — Milwaukee closer Corey Knebel shook off catcher Jett Bandy with two outs in the ninth, confident he could get an inside fastball past Pittsburgh’s Adam Frazier.
For the first time in two months, Knebel couldn’t. And a chance to pull even in the fight for the second National League wild-card spot vanished when Frazier turned on a Knebel offering and sent it to the first row of seats in right field for a two-run home run that lifted the Pirates to a 6-4 victory on Wednesday night.
“It’s what I wanted to throw, what (Bandy) wanted to be thrown and (Frazier) got it,” Knebel said.
The runs were just the second and third given up by Knebel (1-3) since July 19. His streak of 21 consecutive save chances converted ended when he threw wide of first with two outs in the eighth following David Freese’s grounder, allowing Andrew McCutchen to race home from second to tie the game. Knebel took his first loss since July 8. Frazier pounced on a fastball and turned it into the first walk-off homer of his career as the Pirates ended a seven-game losing streak.
“When Knebel made that error in the bottom of the eighth, that was pretty big for us,” Frazier said. “It got us going a little bit, and you could kind of feel the energy on their side let down a little bit for the first time in the series.”
Jesus Aguilar and Domingo Santana homered for the Brewers and Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell used seven pitchers before turning to Knebel with two outs in the eighth. The most reliable member of a bullpen that’s helped fuel Milwaukee’s bid for the franchise’s third playoff berth since 1982 finally faltered as the Brewers lost for just the third time in 12 games heading into a pivotal four-game weekend series at home against the first-place Chicago Cubs.
Milwaukee trails the World Series champions by 3 1/2 games with 10 to go in the regular season.
“Last time I checked we’re still in the race,” Knebel said. “It’s a good feeling to still be right there. Couple games left, just shake this one up and get ready for tomorrow, especially against the Cubs.”
Felipe Rivero (5-2) earned the victory in relief. Frazier finished 2 for 5 with four RBIs. Starling Marte added two hits for the Pirates.
Pittsburgh ended a 21-inning scoreless drought when Frazier drilled a two-run triple and Marte followed with an RBI single to put them up 3-2, their first lead in nine days. It didn’t last. Jacob Barnes came on for Milwaukee starter Aaron Wilkerson, a 28-year-old making his first major league start, and Pittsburgh’s bats immediately went quiet.
The Brewers used eight pitchers in all and moved in front in the seventh thanks to another erratic performance by Tyler Glasnow.
Glasnow started the season in the rotation but was sent back to Triple-A Indianapolis due to control issues. Though he was dominant again at Triple-A, the command problems resurfaced again. He walked four of the six batters he faced, and Eric Thames’ RBI double tied the game. The Brewers reclaimed the lead when Pittsburgh reliever A.J. Schugel walked in the go-ahead run.
McCutchen doubled with one out in the eighth. One batter later, Freese sent a grounder to the third-base side of the mound that Knebel tried to barehand it.
“Wasn’t enough time to set my feet and throw,” Knebel said. “It was the only way and it slipped out.”
An inning later, Milwaukee’s chance to pull even with Colorado slipped away too.
Brewers: RHP Jimmy Nelson is expected to miss a significant portion of the 2018 season while recovering from a partially torn labrum. Nelson suffered the injury after dislocating his shoulder while sliding back into first base against the Cubs earlier this month. “When you get something taken from you on something that’s bad luck frankly, it’s tough to swallow,” Counsell said. Nelson went 12-6 with a 3.49 ERA this season.
Pirates: 2B Josh Harrison’s surgically repaired left thumb will remain in a splint for the next 2-3 weeks but should be healed in time to go through his typical offseason workout program, trainer Todd Tomczyk said Wednesday. The same goes for C Francisco Cervelli, who is recovering from a sore left quadriceps.
Brewers: Begin a pivotal four-game series at home against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday. Zach Davies (17-9, 3.89 ERA) starts the opener for the Brewers, who are 8-7 this season against the World Series champions.
Pirates: Are off Thursday before welcoming St. Louis to PNC Park for a three-game set starting Friday. Ivan Nova (11-14, 4.20 ERA) faces Michael Wacha (12-8, 4.02).