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Santana hits 1st HR of '18 as Crew drops opener

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

MILWAUKEE -- Domingo Santana cleared the fences for the first time in his 100th at-bat of the season, but the Brewers were unable to shake their troubles against winning teams.

Santana's two-run home run capped a three-run sixth-inning rally for the Brewers, who played from behind after the Pirates hit a pair of two-run home runs against Junior Guerra in Milwaukee's 6-4 loss on Friday at Miller Park.

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MILWAUKEE -- Domingo Santana cleared the fences for the first time in his 100th at-bat of the season, but the Brewers were unable to shake their troubles against winning teams.

Santana's two-run home run capped a three-run sixth-inning rally for the Brewers, who played from behind after the Pirates hit a pair of two-run home runs against Junior Guerra in Milwaukee's 6-4 loss on Friday at Miller Park.

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The Brewers fell to 5-13 against teams .500 or better on the year. They are 14-1 against teams with losing records.

Getting Santana slugging again might help. He hit 30 homers last season.

"Look, he hasn't driven many balls to the outfield. It's a great first step and positive reinforcement for him and kind of gets the monkey off his back," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "He's got to slug. That's his game for sure, and that's why he's in there, to slug. We're getting him on track. There's been some hard contact the last 3-4 days, a bunch of base hits, so we're getting him going."

Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte hit two-run home runs for the Pirates off Guerra -- Marte's an inside-the-parker for a 5-1 lead -- before the the Brewers climbed back into the game in the sixth against Pirates starter Nick Kingham. Christian Yelich led off with an excuse-me double down the left-field line and scored with a nifty slide on Jesus Aguilar's RBI single. Two batters later, Santana connected with an 0-2 slider from Kingham and lined it to left field for a two-run shot that cut the deficit to 5-4.

Santana's four RBIs in his last three games match his total from his first 27 games this season. He finished 2-for-4 for his second straight multi-hit game.

"It is a relief. First home run of the season, but we didn't get the W," Santana said. "I'm just trying to get a good pitch to hit like I was doing last year. I feel like I've been chasing a lot of pitches out of the zone. I was just glad I put a good swing on that hanger."

Four Pirates relievers kept the Brewers at bay over the final 3 2/3 innings and David Freese homered in the top of the ninth for insurance. Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez covered the final five outs for his sixth save.

Video: PIT@MIL: Vazquez strikes out Yelich to record save

Guerra surrendered two earned runs and no home runs in his first four starts, but struggled with command throughout his five innings on Friday. He walked three batters in a 28-pitch first inning, including catcher Francisco Cervelli with the bases loaded, before the Pirates' extended their lead with home runs.

"I couldn't control my fastball today. I was all over the place with it and leaving pitches right down the middle," Guerra said. "From the beginning, I felt like it wasn't there. Once you feel that, you just have to find a way to battle and go as deep as you can to give your team a chance to score some runs and get the W."

Video: PIT@MIL: Guerra strikes out Frazier looking

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
So close: On television replays, Yelich's first-inning drive down the right-field line looked like a home run. But the Brewers' internal replay officials had an angle that showed the baseball foul "for sure," said Counsell, and the umpires opted not to exercise their own right to take a second look. On the next pitch from Kingham, Yelich struck out looking.

Video: PIT@MIL: Yelich hits deep foul that appears to be HR

"I don't know. I couldn't really tell," Yelich said. "It started off real fair, and then it took a really hard right turn out there. That's unfortunate. What are you going to do? Chalk it up to bad luck."

Did he watch the replay?

"I'm not going to watch it. I can't. Chalk that one up and the Chicago one [a would-be grand slam knocked down by a stiff wind at Wrigley Field] up in the same little bag and throw it out of your mind."

Inside the park: Guerra said he knew Marte had a chance to circle the bases when his line drive kicked high off the angled wall in left-center field and hugged the warning track. Santana, the right fielder, was slow to react, and Lorenzo Cain had to chase down the baseball.

"Once I stepped on second base and I noticed that the ball was still far away from Lorenzo, I knew I had a shot," Marte said.

Video: Must C Clips: Marte hustles for an inside-the-park HR

"That's a ball in this park that you see once a year, once every couple years," said Counsell. "It's always an inside-the-parker. Even if you think Domingo didn't head there right away, Cain still beat him to the ball. I don't think Domingo going right away gets him there any faster. They're running a long ways. Domingo's probably got 140 feet to go, Cain's got probably 120 feet to go. It's too far."

HE SAID IT
"It was a beautiful slide. We were probably a little aggressive there in sending him, but it was a beautiful slide and it probably took a slide like that for him to be safe." -- Counsell, on third base coach Ed Sedar waving Yelich home with nobody out in the sixth inning

Video: PIT@MIL: Aguilar plates Yelich with a single

UP NEXT
This originally was Zach Davies' day to start, but the Brewers placed him on the 10-day disabled list with a right shoulder injury and bumped up the rest of their starters to work on regular rest. That means Jhoulys Chacin gets the call for Saturday's 6:10 p.m. CT game against Jameson Taillon and the Pirates at Miller Park. Ryan Braun should be back in action for the Brewers after getting an extra day to rest his nagging right calf issue.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers, Domingo Santana