Alvarez powers up as Pirates beat Brewers
PITTSBURGH -- Charlie Morton scattered three singles in 7 1/3 sharp innings on Wednesday at PNC Park as the Pirates edged Milwaukee, 2-0, to give him five consecutive wins for the first time in his 138-start career.
Tenacious Brewers starter Kyle Lohse trailed 2-0 before there was an out in the second -- an RBI infield single by Starling Marte in the first and Pedro Alvarez's leadoff homer in the second -- and that was still the score when he departed after 6 1/3 innings, despite allowing 10 hits.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell commended Lohse, who entered the night with the National League's worst ERA, for a job well done in his the two-run performance.
"I think he got better as the game went along. He battled. He made his pitches when he needed to," Counsell said. "He got through it, and he gave us a chance."
In also working around three walks, while fanning six, Morton reached a record of 4-0 for the first time. Recovery from September labral surgery, which came after he won his last start of 2014, delayed his first start until May 25, and he went seven-or-more innings for the third time in four starts. in halting the Bucs' minor two-game skid.
"I don't feel like I'm the guy, or anything," Morton said of being a stopper. "I just feel like I did a good job. I limited their offense and minimized damage. My sinker was moving enough and was down enough to where they were putting it on the ground."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Alvarez clears PNC again: Alvarez's 10th home run of the season not only gave the Pirates all the cushion they would need, it was a towering drive that cleared the right-field bleachers and landed on the riverwalk. It was the second time this season a home run of his left PNC Park. His solo homer against the Minnesota Twins on May 19 landed on the fly in a boat moored on the Allegheny River.
Help wanted: The Pirates had numerous chances to give Morton more help, and couldn't. They had a runner thrown out at home trying to score from second on a single to shallow left (Marte) and another thrown out at second trying to stretch a single to shallow right (Jung Ho Kang), but the biggest misfire came in the sixth, when they loaded the bases with none out and came up empty. Alvarez popped out and Francisco Cervelli bounced into a double play.
"We had some opportunities to stretch this game, and we did not," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who complimented Lohse for staying "in the game and making pitches. He's got to walk away knowing he kept this game in place and gave them a chance to win."
Dizzy bat: With two outs in the top of the sixth, five-time All-Star right fielder Ryan Braun was due up, potentially to continue his hot hitting and spark a rally. But instead, Hernan Perez pinch-hit for him, grounding out to third. In the bottom half of the inning, Braun was replaced in the field. It was announced in the press box that Braun left the game due to "dizziness." Braun said it was fluid built up in his left eardrum that caused the problem, but noted that he'll be ready for Thursday's tilt in Washington.
"It could be from allergies or something. I'm not sure what the cause is," Braun said. "I thought it was from being dehydrated and I kept drinking water. It wasn't getting better. It was kind of weird. But I'm fine." More >
Crucial calls to the 'pen: After Jordy Mercer led off the bottom of the seventh with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice, Brewers manager Craig Counsell brought in southpaw Neal Cotts to deal with left-handed hitter Gregory Polanco, who struck out. Then, Counsell called on right-hander Michael Blazek to pitch to Marte, who flew out to center field, and Milwaukee avoided further damage.
"[The bullpen's] been excellent. We just thought, 'Let's get through this seventh inning with no damage and give ourselves two more shots,'" Counsell said.
"I might have been able to place it on a tee a little bit lower and it would have been perfectly down the middle. The ball just ran back over the middle of the plate, and he did what you're supposed to do with those pitches. Definitely wasn't cheap." - Lohse, on his home run pitch to Alvarez
"Maybe somebody is asking [Cardinals manager] Mike Matheny the question, 'Is it deflating that you're playing so well and not gaining any ground?' There's nothing deflating about playing good baseball. We play our best baseball and we'll get to where we want to go." -- Hurdle, whose Pirates and St. Louis have either simultaneously won or lost every day since June 1
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Pirates won for the 13th time in 19 series finales -- including seven of nine at home.
Brewers: After winning two consecutive series for the first time this season, Milwaukee looks to continue its upward swing at 7:10 p.m. CT on Thursday as it opens a four-game series at home against Washington. Matt Garza, who has a 7.33 career ERA vs. the Nationals, will take the hill for the Brewers against right-hander Tanner Roark.
Pirates: After an off-day on Thursday, the Pirates open up a weekend set at home against the Phillies on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET, when Jeff Locke squares off against former Buccos righty Kevin Correia. Locke has one win in his last nine starts -- and a 4-0 career mark against Philadelphia.
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