MILWAUKEE -- The Pirates arrived at Miller Park with a chance to climb up the division standings, but it was the Brewers on the move instead.Zach Davies pitched into the seventh inning and Manny Pina drove in a pair of runs before Keon Broxton added insurance with a pinch-hit home
MILWAUKEE -- The Pirates arrived at Miller Park with a chance to climb up the division standings, but it was the Brewers on the move instead.
Zach Davies pitched into the seventh inning and Manny Pina drove in a pair of runs before Keon Broxton added insurance with a pinch-hit home run, sending Milwaukee to a 3-1 win at Miller Park on Tuesday night -- and back into a virtual tie for second place in the National League Central.
With their third straight victory, the Brewers moved alongside the Cardinals into second, with both teams 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Cubs. The loss keeps Pittsburgh 4 1/2 games behind Chicago.
The last seven games between the Brewers and Pirates have been decided by two or fewer runs. The Pirates had won four in a row before the Brewers broke that streak Tuesday.
"It's just a good battle," said Davies. "Both teams care about the game, both teams are in it to win it and it might be another rivalry within the division. Going forward, it's going to be tight throughout the rest of this race, so we're going to go out there and try to win every inning."
Davies had struggled lately at Miller Park, but he broke his funk by altering his pregame routine to allow much more time before he took the mound. It seemed to work, as he allowed a run on six hits in 6 2/3 innings for his team-leading 14th victory in a good pitching matchup against Ivan Nova.
• 'First-half Nova' emerges in loss to Brewers
The Pirates' right-hander pitched six innings and surrendered two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks, but he couldn't solve Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw. The former Red Sox player scored the Brewers' first two runs while reaching safely in all three plate appearances against Nova. With a single, a walk and a hit by pitch, Shaw is now 11-for-14 lifetime against the former Yankees pitcher, Nova.
• Shaw can't explain dominance vs. Bucs' Nova
Corey Knebel registered his 23rd save of the season with a clean ninth inning for the Brewers.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
One and done: After the Pirates tied the game at 1 on Adam Frazier's two-out RBI triple in the sixth, Brewers newcomer (and former Pirates second baseman) Neil Walker made the defensive play of the game to prevent Pittsburgh from pushing ahead. He made a sliding stop to his left to keep Jordy Mercer's grounder on the infield and threw to first in time to end the inning. The stellar play positioned the Brewers to push ahead in the bottom of the inning.
"He showed a little bit of range tonight," said Brewers manager Craig Counsell. "The play in the sixth he had to range to his left pretty good. He made some tough plays."
Well-placed: Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had already burned his challenge by the bottom of the sixth when the Brewers took the lead with two outs on a close play at first base. With runners at the corners, Pina hit a bouncer to the left side of the infield that glanced off third baseman David Freese's glove to the shortstop Mercer, who made a quick transfer and threw on time to first base. But as he stretched for the baseball, Josh Bell's foot came off the bag, according to first-base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt, allowing Pina to reach on an infield hit as Shaw scored for a 2-1 lead. Bell signaled to the dugout for a challenge, but the Pirates lost it back in the fourth inning.
"I came off after I caught the ball," Bell said. "It was a tough play. It is one of those where I wish I could have had a little bit extra time on there with my right foot, but looking back it was one of the best stretches I had this year. If I could have stayed on just a tick longer, it goes in our favor."
"I think it gives you time to relax and settle in instead of going out there a little bit more on adrenaline, a little bit more energetic. Kind of just brings you back down. At least for me, a guy who's a command guy and trying to spot it, that's the biggest thing. It just kind of cools you down and lets you focus on what's ahead." -- Davies, on altering his pregame routine
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Hurdle burned his challenge in the fourth, when Bell motored from first to third on a single and tried to score one right fielder Domingo Santana's errant throw past third base. Shaw tracked down the ball and threw home in time to retire Bell, ending the inning, but not before Hurdle challenged whether Pina had violated the plate blocking rule. Replay confirmed there was no violation.
"This is an explanation I look forward to getting later tonight or something to find out what the call was and why it was not overturned," Hurdle said. "The definition we have, I thought he was clearly set up in front of the plate. Now the throw is coming from the foul side, could he take the throw inside and go make a tag? That one we felt by the definition we understood that he was blocking the plate. That wasn't the call that was made by the crew in New York. I'll definitely be looking to find out why."
"I definitely didn't have a lane," Bell said. "I didn't really realize that until after the fact. I was just kind of head down running and slid right into the plate. In retrospect, that's one of the few times you can clobber a catcher. It didn't cross my mind."
Pirates:Gerrit Cole will look to help the Pirates avoid losing both games of the series and end a three-game skid when he takes the ball at 2:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The right-hander has a 2.70 ERA since the All-Star break and hasn't lost a road start since May 22.
Brewers: Right-hander Jimmy Nelson gets the ball as the Brewers close out their seven-game homestand at 1:10 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Nelson, who leads the Brewers with 14 quality starts, will look to rebound after allowing a career-high nine earned runs in his last start against the Reds. He is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts against Pittsburgh this season.
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Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.
Andrew Gruman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Milwaukee who covered the Pirates on Tuesday.