PITTSBURGH -- Coming into Friday night's game against the Pirates, PNC Park had not been a kind venue for the Brewers in 2018.
Milwaukee went 1-6 in its first seven games in Pittsburgh this year, including a five-game sweep at the hands of the Bucs right before the All-Star break. Friday, a lot of that frustration came out at once as the Brewers scored six runs in the sixth inning on the way to an 8-3 victory that moved their magic number to clinch a postseason berth to five. Milwaukee is now just 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs for the National League Central lead following their loss to the rival White Sox on Friday night.
But it didn't come without drama. Starter Jhoulys Chacin yielded a pair of home runs as the Pirates took an early 3-1 lead before the game was delayed two hours and 14 minutes due to rain. The Brewers did not spend the entire delay in the batting cage, though it seemed like it.
When play resumed, Travis Shaw, Mike Moustakas and Erik Kratz homered in the sixth inning as part of a six-run rally off Pirates relievers Edgar Santana and Steven Brault.
Shaw's two-run shot to right field scored Jesus Aguilar and gave Milwaukee the lead. It was Shaw's 30th homer of the season, and he joined Aguilar and Christian Yelich as Brewers with 30 or more home runs this season. The Indians are the only other team with three such players.
"It's a nice milestone," Shaw said. "That's a nice round number that kinda everybody -- well, not everybody -- but a lot of guys shoot for. It's something that I shoot for. I don't take that lightly. I'm just kind of glad that I've been healthy enough to put up those kind of numbers the last two years."
Yelich, who went 2-for-4 to increase his batting average to an NL-leading .320, Aguilar and Shaw have combined for 94 home runs and 278 RBIs.
"We've got three run-producers in there, and then with the guys that have been hitting at the top for most of the year in Yeli and [Lorenzo] Cain, there's guys on base when they hit," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. "It's all connected. The lineup's connected, and I think each other's success is connected."
Two batters after Shaw homered, Moustakas followed up with a two-run shot to right-center field. It was his 27th of the year and seventh since joining the Brewers on July 27.
Kratz then went back-to-back with a projected 417-foot blast, per Statcast™, to the deepest part of PNC Park in left-center field. Kratz has six homers on the season, the most since he hit nine with Philadelphia in 2013. It was the ninth time this season the Brewers have hit consecutive home runs.
Keon Broxton added a solo home run in the seventh inning to give the Brewers four or more home runs in a game for the seventh time this season.
Milwaukee entered play Friday with 199 homers on the season, and the four-homer outburst sent it ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals for second most in the National League.
"They have a really good lineup," Pirates starter Ivan Nova said. "You've got to be smart pitching against them. Anyone in the lineup can do damage on you, from top to bottom. You've got to make pitches. You've got to be tough on them, because they're going to be tough on you."
After the Brewers took the big lead, the Milwaukee bullpen shut things down, including three strikeouts from Josh Hader to give him an MLB-record 16 consecutive outs via strikeout, and 136 on the season, a record for a left-handed reliever.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The fifth-inning thunderstorm not only sparked the Brewers' bats, but also chased Nova from the game. He had allowed one run on three hits in 4 1/3 innings, and the Brewers cashed in against Pittsburgh's bullpen for seven runs over the final four frames.
"It ended up they had to go to their bullpen and had to use a bunch of guys, and eventually we got to Santana," Counsell said.
HE SAID IT
"I played some cards. I took some swings once we figured out we had a game time, and kind of get loosened up again. We just kind of relaxed." -- Shaw, on what the Brewers did to turn the tide during the rain delay
Since returning to the Brewers' rotation Sept. 3, right-hander Zach Davies has a 3.00 ERA but has yet to pitch into the sixth inning. He allowed two runs over five innings his last time out, against the Pirates, and faces Pittsburgh again on Saturday. Trevor Williams (13-9, 3.16) will take the ball for the Bucs. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT at PNC Park.