After being embarrassed by the Pirates on Friday, the Brewers were back at it Saturday when Matt Garza (3-4, 4.42 ERA) took the hill against Edinson Volquez (3-4, 4.25 ERA).
It was an interesting day for Garza. He allowed the Pirates to reach base in five of his six innings of work, including six hits and five walks, but he managed to limit them to three runs as the Brewers evened the series with a 9-3 win.
Garza and the Brewers were helped by five Pirates errors and another strong performance by the bullpen to improve to 37-26 and remain five games ahead of the Cardinals.
It started off well for Milwaukee, Jean Segura led off with a routine grounder to short but Jordy Mercer bobbled it and couldn’t get the throw to first in time to beat the speedy Segura.
Segura advanced to second on a pick-off throw that Ike Davis couldn’t handle and moved to third when Davis threw the ball away trying to get Segura at second. After a Ryan Braun pop-out Segura, scored on a Jonathan Lucroy sac-fly to left.
Garza worked around an Andrew McCutchen walk in the Pirates half of the first inning.
Aramis Ramirez opened the second inning with a soft fly to shallow right that Pittsburgh couldn’t get to. Volquez followed by fanning Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett before getting Lyle Overbay to flyout to leave Ramirez on first.
After making a nice over the shoulder catch on a weird pop-up by Russell Martin to start the bottom of the second, Garza surrendered a double to Pedro Alvarez. Jose Tabata followed with a walk to put two men on.
Garza stabbed a Mercer grounder up the middle and threw to second to get the out there but he one-hopped the throw so Segura couldn’t turn two. Volquez grounded out to Segura to leave two Pirates on.
Volquez put Garza, Segura and Braun out in order to open the third inning, with the Brewers still clinging to a 1-0 lead.
After a quick line drive out by Josh Harrison, Neil Walker belted a single to right for yet another Pirates base runner. Andrew McCutchen followed with a double play grounder up the middle, but Garza deflected it with his throwing hand and no outs were recorded.
Ike Davis followed with a swinging bunt. Lucroy tossed him out at first, but both runners advanced a base. Garza walked Martin to load the bases for Alvarez. On his first pitch Alvarez lined to right to bring in Walker and McCutchen and give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead.
Lucroy opened the top of the fourth, now with the Brewers trailing, with a sharp single to McCutchen in right. After a Gomez pop-out to second, Ramirez got hit on the hand to put two men on.
Davis followed with a ground-rule double to Drive in Lucroy and put Ramirez at third. The Pirates issued Gennett an intentional walk to load the bases for Overbay.
Overbay promptly knocked a single to center and drove in Ramirez and Davis. Garza sacrificed Overbay over to second to put two men in scoring position for Segura. Segura grounded to Davis at first to end the inning with the Brewers up 4-2.
Garza put the Pirates down one-two-three in the bottom half of the frame, his only three batter inning in the game.
Volquez came right back and put the Brewers down in order in the top of the fifth with a fly out by Braun, ground out by Lucroy and strike out by Gomez.
Garza struck out Walker to open the inning, and McCutchen grounded out on a swinging bunt before Garza walked Davis. He closed the inning with a ground out by Martin.
After a Ramirez ground out, Davis reached on a throwing error by Alvarez and moved to second on the play. He advanced to third on a wild pitch by Volquez but he was stranded there.
Garza opened the bottom half of the sixth with another walk, this time to Alvarez. Tabata followed with a bunt single and throwing error by Ramirez to advance Alvarez to third.
Mercer followed with a double-play ground out that brought Alvarez home to cut the lead to 4-3. Travis Snider pitch hit for Volquez and knocked a single to left but Garza escaped the inning with no further damage.
Segura and Braun went down quickly in the top of the seventh before a Lucroy single, but he was left stranded when Gomez struck out.
Rob Wooten came on for Garza in the bottom of the seventh, Walker led off with a single to right, but was erased on a double play ground ball off the bat of McCutchen. Davis ended the inning with a strike out.
Justin Wilson came on to pitch the eighth for the Pirates and promptly struck out Ramirez. Davis and Gennett both followed with walks to put two on for pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds, hitting for Overbay.
Reynolds got plunked in the right elbow on the 3-2 pitch to load the bases for Rickie Weeks, pinch-hitting for Wooten. Rickie bounced to short, but Mercer struggled to get the throw to second, and Davis came in to score as the Pirates couldn’t turn two. Reynolds was erased on the play at second.
Weeks promptly stole second on the first pitch to Segura to put runners on second and third for the Brewers shortstop. Segura grounded sharply in the hole between third and short. Mercer made a diving stab on the ball but he couldn’t make a throw. Gennett came in to score and Weeks moved to third.
Jeanmar Gomez came on to replace Wilson. Braun promptly crushed a double off the wall in right to drive in Weeks and Segura and make it 8-3 Milwaukee. Lucroy flew out to McCutchen to end the inning.
Will Smith came on to pitch the bottom half of the frame for Milwaukee. He walked Martin on eight pitches to start the inning. Alvarez followed by striking out before Tabata bounced to third for a 5-4-3 double play.
Gomez lead off the top of the ninth with an infield single and reached third on a two-base throwing error by Gomez. Irving Falu, who had replaced Ramirez defensively in the bottom of the eighth, followed with a sac-fly to center to bring in Gomez.
Davis followed with a sharp line drive to left for a single and another base runner but a fly out by Gennett and strike out by Reynolds ended the inning.
Brandon Kintzler came out to finish the game for Milwaukee. He got Mercer and Sanchez quickly, before a Harrison double. Walker flew out to Braun to end the game.
Garza earned the win for Milwaukee going six innings and allowing three runs on six hits and five walks while striking out one. Wooten, Smith and Kintzler eached pitched an inning of relief.
None of the three allowed a run, Wooten gave up one hit while striking out one; Smith walked one and struck out one; and Kintzler gave up one hit while striking out one.
Volquez started for the Pirates and earned the loss. He allowed four runs on four hits and two walks while striking out four in six innings of work.
Wilson picked up the loss for the Pirates allowing four runs on a hit and two walks in just 2/3 innings of work.
The teams will pick it back up again tomorrow in the finale when Yovani Gallardo (3-4, 4.08 ERA) takes the hill for Milwaukee.