MILWAUKEE -- Nobody seems to have the Brewers figured out this season quite like the Pirates.Milwaukee's 3-1 loss on Saturday was its 10th in 15 meetings with Pittsburgh this season. The Brewers are averaging 3.33 runs per game against the Pirates this year and have been held to three runs
MILWAUKEE -- Nobody seems to have the Brewers figured out this season quite like the Pirates.
Milwaukee's 3-1 loss on Saturday was its 10th in 15 meetings with Pittsburgh this season. The Brewers are averaging 3.33 runs per game against the Pirates this year and have been held to three runs or fewer nine times.
With the loss, Milwaukee falls 2 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the National League Central, and its lead for the top NL Wild Card spot is 3 1/2 games over the Rockies.
"They've been pitching-based for many years, and it's a strength of theirs," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of the Pirates. "You figure that's the game you're going to be in when you play these guys."
After allowing a first-inning home run to Christian Yelich, Pirates starter Ivan Nova settled in and tossed six strong innings, allowing just the one run on four hits while striking out four. After Yelich's homer, the Brewers moved just one more runner into scoring position against Nova, who retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced.
"We got off to a good start with the Yelich home run," Counsell said. "Nova got his sinker going and got through his six innings pretty easy, really. We didn't get much going against him as the game progressed."
Milwaukee threatened in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings against the Pirates bullpen, bringing the tying run to the plate in each of those frames and the winning run up in the ninth.
Jesus Aguilar led off the seventh inning against Pittsburgh reliever Richard Rodriguez with a double and advanced to third base on a wild pitch with no one out. But Mike Moustakas struck out, catcher Erik Kratz popped out to first base and Jonathan Schoop, who was pinch-hitting for Orlando Arcia, struck out to end the inning.
Eric Thames walked to lead off the eighth inning and got to second base on a Curtis Granderson groundout, but when Yelich grounded to third base, Thames was caught off second and retired in a rundown.
Then in the ninth inning against Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez, Ryan Braun and Aguilar started the inning with singles, which brought the winning run to the plate in Moustakas. Vazquez rebounded, though. Moustakas lined out to shortstop, pinch-hitter Domingo Santana flied out and Schoop struck out to end the game. Milwaukee finished 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
"We were able to get the matchups we wanted the last two innings and got a couple of rallies," Counsell said. "We weren't able to finish them."
RIght-hander Zach Davies gave the Brewers five innings for a third straight start. He allowed a pair of runs on three hits while striking out three.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Yelich strikes again: Yelich added another line to his resume for the NL Most Valuable Player Award when he ripped a 1-1 fastball from Nova over the left-center-field wall in the first inning. It's the second straight game that Yelich has hit a home run in the opening frame, having clocked a two-run homer off Chris Archer in the Brewers' win on Friday.
The homer was Yelich's 30th of the season, and he has now reached base in 30 straight games, the longest active streak in the NL. Only the Astros' Alex Bregman, who has reached in 41 straight games, has a longer active streak in the Majors.
Guerra pitches in: Removed from the rotation earlier in September after a rough August, Junior Guerra worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings Saturday, allowing just one hit while striking out three. After Jacob Barnes pitched himself into a jam with two outs in the sixth, Guerra shut the door on Pittsburgh's rally and then kept the Brewers within striking distance with two scoreless innings.
"We were down tonight, so we went to some different guys," Counsell said. "I was glad Junior was able to get out there and pitch. He's one of the guys who can be a factor in this thing, and he certainly did well tonight."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Arcia has a tendency of making the difficult look easy. He did it again in the fourth inning Saturday, chasing down Jordan Luplow's fly ball into shallow center with one out. He made the catch then tossed the ball to second base to double up Francisco Cervelli, who had doubled in the game's decisive run earlier in the inning.
"That's what he's in there for." Counsell sad. "He made some plays that did something for us, that's for sure."
HE SAID IT
"We've put ourselves in a good position. It doesn't really matter who we play. Our attitude is going to be the same and our mindset to winning ball games is going to be the same." -- Davies
"This is how it's going to be the rest of the year. There's going to be ups and downs. We're not super focused on [the standings]. We're just trying to win every single night." -- Yelich
The Brewers will try to clinch their eighth consecutive series win on Sunday afternoon at 1:10 p.m. CT against the Pirates at Miller Park. Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin gets the nod, looking to earn his first victory in his fifth start against Pittsburgh this season. He's pitched well in the first four meetings, posting a 2.28 ERA, which led Counsell to flip his spot in the rotation with Wade Miley, who now will start on Monday against the Reds. Trevor Williams will start on Sunday for Pittsburgh with a 1.32 ERA since the All-Star break.
Andrew Wagner is a contributor to MLB.com based in Milwaukee.