PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers, thanks to their strong arms on the mound and in the outfield, won another series. Now they will eye a sweep.
Chase Anderson continued his string of solid starts by pitching six scoreless innings, and Domingo Santana backed him with a solo homer in a 1-0 win over the Pirates on Tuesday at PNC Park. The shutout was also aided by the burgeoning reputation of center fielder Brett Phillips, who kept the potential tying run from even thinking of trying to score from third in the sixth on a flyout to center. Phillips unleashed a 104.7-mph throw to the plate -- the hardest-thrown ball this season, according to Statcast™ -- and he now owns the top three hardest outfield throws for 2017.
The Brewers, who have won nine of their last 11 games and won or split seven of their last eight series, are just a game behind the Rockies for the second NL Wild Card after Colorado's walk-off loss in San Francisco.
Tuesday's win kept the Brewers 3 1/2 games behind the Cubs, who won at Tampa Bay, in a National League Central race that could hinge on the looming four-game series between Chicago and Milwaukee at Miller Park that begins on Thursday.
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"I'm proud of how our guys are playing, man," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It'd be tough to complain about how we're playing, that's for sure."
Pirates starter Trevor Williams (five innings, three hits, one earned run) pitched well, but Anderson was better, shutting down a Pirates club that has lost 12 of its last 13 games while scoring 22 runs. During that stretch, they are 13-for-77 with runners in scoring position.
"It's tough. It's baseball, though," second baseman Adam Frazier said. "I think that's what it's been the past few games. Just haven't really been able to get that hit to get the offense rolling. We've got to keep grinding. … We've just gotta lock in and do our jobs."
Anderson allowed five hits in six scoreless innings, with no walks and eight strikeouts in his 14th consecutive start of three or fewer earned runs.
Anthony Swarzak pitched two scoreless innings and Corey Knebel protected the lead in the ninth for his 37th save, sealing the Brewers' 12th shutout victory this season.
"Anderson has been on a roll for them. He's kind of fallen into their ace role," Williams said. "They have one of the best closers in the game, and they've got a great bullpen that they traded for at the deadline. … It's unfortunate we've run into a lot of good pitching the last week."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Phillips fires, Anderson escapes: The Pirates put runners at the corners with nobody out in the sixth, but Anderson managed to protect a 1-0 lead with an assist from Phillips that did not show up in the box score. Anderson struck out Andrew McCutchen with a high fastball for the first out, then, with the runners at second and third, induced a Josh Bell flyout to Phillips.
The Pirates had the speedster Frazier at third, but he held there as Phillips unleashed a throw home that registered 104.7 mph according to Statcast™, breaking Phillips' own 2017 record set eight days earlier against the Pirates at Miller Park. Anderson completed the escape by getting Gregory Polanco to hit another flyout to center field to end an inning Counsell called "special."
"Obviously, throwing out a couple of guys, specifically against this team, they respect the arm," Phillips said. "Honestly, I didn't even see where the ball went, but we kept them to a shutout and that was a big play. Chase did a heck of a job tonight, and so did our bullpen."
Just enough: Williams could only shake his head as Santana circled the bases on a solo home run in the fourth inning that had a hit probability, according to Statcast™, of 5 percent. Santana's fly traveled a projected 338 feet but found the front row of bleachers next to the left-field foul pole, good for a lead and Santana's 26th home run.
"I thought [the issue] was foul or fair because it was hooking. I was just trying to keep it fair," Santana said.
"I swear, I looked up and they won again tonight, and I was like, 'Man!' Hey, they want it just as bad as we want it, so I know how they feel. We have to take care of business tomorrow and we'll go from there." -- Phillips, on scoreboard-watching for the Cubs' outcome
"There's a professional responsibility with what you do. As a manager, you do want to model the behavior you want to instill in others. I don't like losing. There's not a man in there that likes losing, and we've done more than our fair share of it for a while now."--Pirates manager Clint Hurdle
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Tuesday marked the 23rd 1-0 win in the Brewers' 49-year history in which the lone run scored on a homer. Two of those 23 wins have come this month.
• The Pirates have not scored a run against an opposing starting pitcher since the third inning of Friday's game in Cincinnati, when they put up a run against the Reds' Homer Bailey. They have not held a lead of any kind since last Wednesday, and they have not ended an inning with a lead since their last win, which was Sept. 11 at Miller Park.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The umpires temporarily stumped the broadcast crews when the Brewers were allowed to challenge a call in the fifth inning that appeared to be unreviewable. Eric Thames hit a slicing live drive beyond first base that may have struck the chalk line, and definitely struck crew chief Gerry Davis, who called the ball foul. Fair-foul calls on the infield -- in other words, in front of the base umpire -- are on Major League Baseball's list of plays that cannot be reviewed, but after the umpires conferred, they granted the Brewers' challenge. After 2 minutes, 42 seconds, Davis announced that the foul call would stand. Thames wound up reaching safely on a walk, but the Brewers lost their challenge.
"You're not allowed to ask for reviews on balls in front of the umpire, but in a situation where he's got to move and he might not see the call well, you can ask -- but it's a challenge," Counsell said. "In our eyes, it was fair. I thought there was a picture on the scoreboard that showed it hit the line so I was a little confused why they called it foul."
Brewers: The Brewers are in the middle of a stretch of 10 games in as many days, so instead of another "bullpen day" during the 6:05 p.m. CT game on Wednesday at PNC Park, they will hope for innings from right-hander Aaron Wilkerson in his first Major League start. Wilkerson made his MLB debut last week with a scoreless inning of relief against Miami.
Pirates: The Pirates will wrap up their season series with the Brewers by sending left-hander Steven Brault, who held Milwaukee to one hit over six scoreless innings last week, to the hill. Rookie Tyler Glasnow is scheduled to pitch in relief after struggling in a 2 2/3-inning start at Miller Park last time out. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.
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