MILWAUKEE -- The baseball popped out of Pirates catcher Elias Diaz's glove as Lorenzo Cain (Lo Cain) scored the game's first run. Then the same thing happened to Pirates center fielder Starling Marte as he attempted a diving catch in center field.
The Brewers were on their way to a big inning and another big series win.
:: Players' Weekend presented by Valspar Stain ::
Mike Moustakas (Moose) and Manny Pina (Pineapple) each hit two-run home runs after those close calls extended the bottom of the third, and Jonathan Schoop (Mamba) added a solo shot in the sixth as the Brewers capped Players' Weekend with a 7-4 victory over Chris Archer and the Pirates in the rubber match of the teams' series at Miller Park.
The Brewers' second straight winning series left them 4 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the National League Central standings, and Milwaukee took a one-game lead over the Rockies for the second NL Wild Card spot.
"There were some strange games on this homestand, but I felt like we held serve winning two out of three each series," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Winning series is going to lead to a lot of good things."
Jesus Aguilar's (El Causa) sacrifice fly scored Cain on a close play at the plate, before Travis Shaw's (Mayor-DDC) line drive barely eluded Marte. That extended the Brewers' rally for Ryan Braun's (Ocho) RBI single and two-run homers from Moustakas and Pina off Archer, a trade target of Milwaukee in July before the Rays shipped him to Pittsburgh instead.
Moustakas' fourth Brewers home run (24th total this season) made it 4-0, and Pina's gave the Brewers five consecutive two-out hits and a 6-0 lead.
"Just kind of feeding off each other is what happened," Cain said. "I was happy I was able to get it started today. We definitely have a trend of not scoring in one inning and then not scoring the rest of the game. We're going to try to fix that and hopefully be more consistent."
Staked to a 6-0 lead, Brewers starter Chase Anderson (Texas) didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning or a run until the fifth, only to serve up back-to-back home runs to Adam Frazier and Gregory Polanco in the sixth as Pittsburgh pulled as close as 6-4. Anderson leads the NL with 28 home runs allowed this season.
He still earned the win after allowing four runs on seven hits in five-plus innings after relievers Josh Hader (Stricken), Joakim Soria (Junior) and Jeremy Jeffress (Jota Jota) combined to throw four scoreless innings to finish the homestand.
"It's funny to see a game turn like that, or at-bats turn like that, after how good [Anderson] was," Counsell said. "Chase is going to give up home runs. That's always been a part of it. You can't change that, really. That's what his stuff does. … There's a lot of really good pitchers who have given up home runs."
Limiting the damage caused by those homers is the key, argued Counsell. Anderson has done a good job of that. Twenty-one of his home runs allowed have come with the bases empty. The other seven have been two-run homers.
"I think the biggest thing this year is I've kind of been fighting my delivery and it's been more inconsistent than I've wanted it," Anderson said. "I kind of got on the pace this year of going too fast or too slow, and I feel like the tempo is better when I kind of focus on the glove, take a little time and take a deep breath and make a pitch. I'm trying to get to that, and hopefully I can keep that consistent down the stretch."
The win gave the Brewers a foothold against the Pirates, who entered the series having won eight of the first 10 matchups between the teams, including five in a row right before the All-Star break.
"It definitely helps. They've definitely had our number," Cain said. "To come out and take two out of three from them was huge."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cain's dash home: Cain got things started in the decisive third inning with a leadoff triple off Archer, and he then broke home on Aguilar's one-out line drive to Polanco in right field. He unleashed a strong throw home that one-hopped to Diaz, who couldn't hang on as Cain slid home for a 1-0 lead.
"He hit it and [third-base coach] Eddie [Sedar] told me, 'Just go! Go! Go!'" Cain said. "I took off and was able to slide in there safely."
"Having a guy with wheels in that spot definitely gets you the run," Counsell said. "It's probably not a 'send' with every player."
Soria vs Dickerson: With some of their relievers slumping of late, Soria's two scoreless outings in the series loomed large in the wake of his stint on the 10-day disabled list for a groin injury. Errors charged to second baseman Schoop and shortstop Orlando Arcia (El Nino) forced Soria to essentially get five outs in the eighth inning on Sunday, the last of which came on a comebacker from Corey Dickerson, who represented the tying run. It looked like it hit Soria in the chest but actually caught all glove, Soria said later, and he recovered in time to throw to first base to keep the Pirates at bay.
"Both outings since the DL, he's thrown the ball really well. It's almost like it freshened him up a little bit," Counsell said. "He's going to be huge down there, and we're going to need big outs from him."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Hader needed only 21 pitches for two scoreless innings thanks in part to an interference call against Pittsburgh's Francisco Cervelli in the sixth inning after Anderson found trouble. Hader's first batter was Dickerson, who hit a bouncer to second base for what became a double play when Cervelli slid wide of the bag and was called for violating the so-called Chase Utley rule.
HE SAID IT
"He's a three-WAR lineup card-taker." -- Counsell, on the Brewers solving their day-game woes by sending injured catcher Stephen Vogt to home plate with the lineup card. With three straight victories, the Brewers are 21-31 in day games.
After taking two of three games from the Reds at Miller Park last week, the Brewers head to Cincinnati for three more at Great American Ball Park beginning Tuesday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Junior Guerra, who was undone by a weird fourth inning that included a run-scoring error, a run-scoring passed ball and three straight infield hits -- including one that struck an umpire -- will face the Reds for the second time in eight days. Anthony DeSclafani will start for Cincinnati.