Sep 19, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks (23) receives a high-five in the dugout after hitting a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
While it isn’t mathematically required, the Milwaukee Brewers needed to sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates this weekend if they want to make the National League wildcard playoff game.
Gallardo was excellent, picking up a season high in strike outs and staking the Brewers to a 2-0 lead after seven innings as both teams turned the game over to the bullpen.
For the second night in a row, with Ron Roenicke’s designated setup man on the mound, the Brewers blew a 2-0 lead and the Pirates walked away with a 4-2 win, knocking the Brewers 4 ½ games out of the second wild card with just 8 games to play.
The loss all but ends the slim playoff hopes of the Brewers. The Pirates have won 12 of their last 14 games to pull away from Milwaukee and have Cincinnati and the collapsing Atlanta Braves to finish out season. Even if the Brewers manage to win the next two games against Pittsburgh, they would be 2 ½ back with six to play.
The struggling Brewers offense got on the board in the top of the first inning. With one out in the first Ryan Braun doubled to left and moved to third on a wild pitch. Jonathan Lucroy drove him home with a single to left to give Milwaukee a 1-0 lead.
The Pirates threatened in the bottom of the first. Gallardo got quick outs to Josh Harrison and Starling Marte, but Andrew McCutchen tripled to center to put the tying run just 90 feet away but Neil Walker grounded out to end the inning.
Neither team scored again until the top of the fifth when Rickie Weeks belted a lead off home run (7) to center to put the Brewers on top 2-0.
Gallardo had 11 strike outs through seven innings. It was his 18th career 10-strike out game, and his first in more than two seasons, going back to July 15, 2012, also against the Pirates.
Both starting pitchers exited after the seventh inning. Gallardo went seven innings and allowed just five hits and a walk while striking out those 11 Pirates. Locke also went seven and allowed two runs on five hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out three.
John Holdzkom was the first man out of the pen for the Pirates in the eighth inning; he allowed only a Braun walk in the frame. Jonathan Broxton came on for the Brewers in the bottom half of the frame.
Starlin Marte led off with an infield single. Mark Reynolds fielded it and flipped to first for the out, but he beat Broxton to the bag by a fraction of a second. The Brewers challenged the call, but the ruling stood.
Broxton came back and struck out McCutchen but lefty Neil Walker singled to left, moving Marte to second. That was all academic though, as Russell Martin belted a go-ahead, three-run home run on his third pitch from Broxton to put the Pirates up 3-2.
Jeffress came back and struck out Jordy Mercer but Ike Davis singled to center to bring in the lead runner and make it 4-2. Segura made a diving attempt at the grounder but he couldn’t come up with it. Jeffress struck out Harrison to end the inning.
All four runs were charged to Broxton in just 1/3 of an inning of work. He allowed four runs on four hits and had one strike out. Jeffress allowed two hits and had two whiffs in 2/3 of an inning.
Mark Melancon came on to work on his 31st save of the season in the ninth inning. Aramis Ramirez led off with a ground out to third base. It was Josh Harrison’s 11th assist of the game on the grounder, tying a major league record for assists by a third baseman in a game. Khris Davis grounded out back to the mound for the second out, and pinch hitter Lyle Overbay (because who cares when Matt Clark and Jason Rogers are sitting on the bench unused) grounded out to short to end the game.