Sep 20, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy (L) tags out Pittsburgh Pirates pinch runner Gregory Polanco (25) attempting to steal home during the seventh inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Season freshly over, the Milwaukee Brewers were back at it tonight for a largely meaningless game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. A Brewers win would make winning the central division much harder for the Pirates, but Milwaukee’s playoff hopes are basically over.
The Brewers sent Matt Garza (8-8, 3.74 ERA) to take on Edison Volquez (12-7, 3.27 ERA). Garza had made three starts since coming back from the disabled list for his oblique injury; he got knocked around in the first, but was good in both of his next two starts.
Volquez is having one of his best seasons ever in his now 10-year major league career. His 3.27 ERA is the second best in his career, behind only his All Star campaign in 2008. He doesn’t strike out as many batters as he used to, but he’s couple that with a career low walk rate.
The Brewers offense was in September form again today, notching just one run, but Garza and the Brewers bullpen combined to shut out the Pirates and pick up a 1-0 win.
Neither team was able to plate a runner in the first three innings, and each team had just two hits in the first third of the game. Scooter Gennett and Travis Snider had first inning doubles, and Lyle Overbay had a second inning double for Milwaukee, and Starling Marte had a second inning single for the Pirates.
Neither team scored in the next two innings either. Back in the third Garza hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch. Volquez tried to return the favor by throwing at Ryan Braun in the fourth but he missed and both benches were warned. In the bottom of the fifth, Garza hit McCutchen again and was automatically ejected, along with Ron Roenicke.
Marco Estrada came on to finish the inning, but McCutchen was caught stealing for the final out before Estrada got to pitch to one batter. Garza went 4 2/3 innings and didn’t allow a run on three hits and two walks; he also hit two batters and struck out six.
Estrada also worked a scoreless sixth before turning the ball over to Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith in the seventh. The Pirates threatened in the seventh on Jeffress. With two outs Andrew Lambo and Josh Harrison knocked back-to-back singles.
Will Smith came on to replace Jeffress with the lefty Travis Snider coming up, but the Pirates countered with pinch hitter Jose Tabata. Smith picked off Harrison at first, Harrison took off toward second, and Lyle Overbay pump faked a throw to second.
Gregory Polanco, pinch running for Lambo, was fooled by Overbay’s pump fake and made for home, but Overbay threw him out easily to end the inning.
Tony Watson came in to replace Volquez in the eighth inning. Volquez went seven innings and allowed just three Milwaukee hits and three walks. He struck out six Brewers.
Rickie Weeks knocked a one-out single to left in the eight inning off Watson. It hit Harrison’s glove but he couldn’t make the play. Jonathan Lucroy followed with a grounder back to the mound. Watson fired to second to get the lead out and threw wide. Shortstop Jordy Mercer was able to knock it down, but the Pirates didn’t record an out on the play.
That put two on for Aramis Ramirez, but he grounded into and inning-ending double play. Weeks was the first Brewers player in scoring position since the fourth inning, when Overbay reached on an error by Volquez and stole second base.
Brandon Kintzler came on to toss the bottom of the eighth for the Brewers. Brent Morel led off with a swinging bunt to third for an infield single. Ramirez made a nice bare handed play on it, but it was hit too slowly to make get the out.
McCutchen drew a walk on seven pitches to put two on for last night’s Pirates hero, Neil Walker. Walker tapped back to the mound but Kintzler’s only play was first base, putting runners on second and third with one out.
The Brewers intentionally walked Russell Martin to load the bases for Starlin Marte. Marte lined out hard to Ramirez at third. Ramirez almost doubled pinch-runner Chase d’Arnaud, but d’Arnaud was back in time to keep the bases loaded with two down.
That was it for Kintzler as the Brewers called for Zach Duke to face Ike Davis. The Pirates countered by calling Gabby Sanchez to hit for Davis, but the Brewers preferred that matchup to leaving Kintzler out there. Sanchez grounded hard to Hector Gomez as short and he took the short out at second base to end the inning.
At this point the Brewers and Pirates were a combined 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
Pirates closer Mark Melancon came on to toss the top of the ninth. Braun singled to lead off the inning, but was erased at second base on a bunt attempt by Elian Herrera. Herrera bunted to hard back to the mound and Melancon threw Braun out at second, leaving Herrera on first with a fielder’s choice.
Overbay doubled on a bouncing grounder over the head of Sanchez at first base, putting Herrera on third. Matt Clark came in to hit for Hector Gomez and was immediately intentionally walked. Logan Schafer came in to hit for Duke with the bases loaded.
Schafer lofted a fly ball to left field to bring in Herrera and give the Brewers a 1-0 lead. Carlos Gomez struck out to end the inning.
Francisco Rodriguez came on to toss the bottom of the ninth with Milwaukee holding the slimmest of 1-0 leads. Mark Reynolds took over at first base, Jean Segura took over at short in the inning and Schafer stayed in the game in left.
K-Rod retired Mercer on a fly out to Braun just two pitches into the inning. Gregory Polanco grounded out back to Frankie on the first pitch he saw for the second out. Josh Harrison grounded out to Segura to end the game.
Zach Duke got the win for the Brewers, and Francisco Rodriguez picked up his 43rd save of the season.
After Garza’s ejection the Brewers bullpen threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and two walks after blowing each of the last two games in the eighth inning. The teams will finish the series tomorrow just after noon.