Mike Fiers pitched seven solid innings and the offense knocked out 13 hits as the Brewers regained their one and one-half game lead in the National League Central as they beat Pittsburgh 4-3 Sunday afternoon at Miller Park before a sellout crowd of 42,761.
Second place St. Louis dropped a 7-1 decision to Philadelphia to lose a game in the standings.
The Brewers (71-58) came into Sunday’s action holding a slight one-half game over Saint Louis. The Brewers had lost three in a row, playing .500 ball over their last ten games, and had dropped the first two games of the series to Pittsburgh. The Pirates (67-62) were in third in the N.L. Central, having cutting their deficit to four games back.
Fiers (3-1, 1.29) toed the rubber for Milwaukee, while Vance Worley (5-3, 2.92 ERA) started for Pittsburgh.
After Fiers set down the Bucs in order in the top half of the opening inning, the Brewers went to work.
Ryan Braun reached on an infield single that Worley couldn’t handle and moved to third when Aramis Ramirez grounded a base hit to right. Scooter Gennett continued his clutch hitting by knocking in Braun on an infield single that bounced past third baseman Josh Harrison.
The Pirates got back into the game in their half of the second.
The Brewers grabbed the lead back with more clutch two-out hitting in the bottom of the second.
Carlos Gomez reached second on a line drive to left center that Andrew McCutchen misplayed. Gomez was credited with a two-base hit. Jonathan Lucroy promptly drilled a base hit to right field to easily score Gomez.
Braun drew a four-pitch walk to put runners at first and second. Ramirez punched his second hit to right and Lucroy scored, just beating the throw from RF Gregory Polanco. Then Gennett hit a ball to almost the same spot, but this time Polanco’s throw easily nailed a sliding Braun at the dish to end the inning.
In a rarity–to this point–both teams went down in order in the third.
In the bottom of the fourth, Lucroy reached on his league-leading 43rd double that one-hopped the wall in left center, but Braun bounced to third to end the inning.
The Brewers got something going in the bottom of the seventh with a Braun base hit to right and a blooper to left by Ramirez that ticked off Marte’s glove for a single to give the hosts runners at first and second. Lefthander Justin Wilson replaced Worley to face Gennett and got a 6-4-3 twin killing to end the threat.
Worley allowed 12 hits, four runs, and struck out five and walked one.
Jeremy Jeffress came in to pitch for the Brewers in the top of the eighth. Fiers left allowing only two hits and two runs, while striking out seven and walking one.
Jeffress allowed an infield single to Jordy Mercer but retired the next two batters to retire the side.
Mark Melancon entered the contest in the bottom of the eighth for the Pirates.
Parra laid down a out-one bunt that Pirate catcher Russell Martin grabbed and made a spinning throw to first that went past Alvarez. Second baseman Neil Walker alertly backed up the play and easily threw out Parra trying to advance to second.
Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez came to face the Pirates in the top of the ninth but was greeted with a one-out home run to left by McCutchen to cut the lead to 4-3. The next batter Walker hit a dribbler that Rodriguez raced over to and made the rare 1U (pitcher unassisted) play at first for the second out.
Martin coaxed a walk to put the tying run at first, bringing up Alvarez.
But ‘K-Rod’ got a key strikeout to earn his 39th save of the season. Fiers earned the win to go to 4-1, while Worley dropped to 5-4.
The Brewers will fly to San Diego and begin a three game series against the Padres beginning Monday evening.