PITTSBURGH -- Unable to mount any sort of offensive attack against Brewers starter Junior Guerra for five innings, the Pirates broke out in the sixth Tuesday night at PNC Park. Francisco Cervelli and Josh Harrison homered, leading the surging Bucs to a 4-3 win over the Brewers.Pittsburgh has won nine
PITTSBURGH -- Unable to mount any sort of offensive attack against Brewers starter Junior Guerra for five innings, the Pirates broke out in the sixth Tuesday night at PNC Park. Francisco Cervelli and Josh Harrison homered, leading the surging Bucs to a 4-3 win over the Brewers.
Pittsburgh has won nine of its last 11 games, pulling within five games of Milwaukee in the wide-open National League Central race. This was cast as a critical stretch for the Bucs, who may have to declare themselves as contenders before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Pirates got outfielder Starling Marte back on Tuesday night from suspension, and he went 1-for-3 with a single and walk.
"I think any time's a good time to get hot, regardless of who you play. It's just a good feeling to know that Marte's back and we're ready to go," Harrison said. "The second half started off on a good note. We'll just keep riding with this momentum, keep coming every day to work and getting better."
• Marte appreciates fans' response in return
Guerra retired the Pirates in order his first time through the lineup, and he faced the minimum through five innings. Then Cervelli led off the sixth with a homer to left field, and with two outs and a runner on, Harrison launched a game-tying home run, his 11th of the season, into the right-field seats. That ended Guerra's night, but the Pirates weren't done. After Brewers reliever Oliver Drake walked Andrew McCutchen, David Freese turned an 0-2 count full then drove in McCutchen with a go-ahead single to right field.
The Pirates asked relievers A.J. Schugel and Daniel Hudson to record six outs to get to lights-out closer Felipe Rivero, and they delivered with Tony Watson and Juan Nicasio apparently unavailable. Schugel delivered a scoreless seventh, striking out Ryan Braun to end the inning, and Hudson worked a perfect eighth. The Pirates' pitching staff has a 2.79 staff ERA in July that ranks second only to the Dodgers.
"They're just executing pitches with much more consistency," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're just doing a better job of navigating through the lineup and attacking hitters, being more aggressive, and the execution has been very clean."
Travis Shaw hit a three-run home run in the third inning for the Brewers, who have now lost three straight. Milwaukee's NL Central lead over the second-place Cubs is down to 2 1/2 games after Chicago won its fifth straight game Tuesday against the Braves.
"Hard-fought games are kind of what you expect in this park," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We've just been on the wrong side of a couple of them."
Keon Broxton took a hit away from Adam Frazier by making a diving catch in right-center field during the sixth inning.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Left 'em loaded:Ivan Nova allowed 10 hits in six innings, but he avoided significant damage Tuesday night. That was summarized in his second inning, when Shaw singled and Hernan Perez doubled before Nova could record an out. He got Manny Pina to pop out, struck out Broxton and intentionally walked Orlando Arcia to load the bases for Guerra. Four pitches later, Nova was out of the inning unscathed. After a shaky third, Nova retired eight of the final 10 Brewers he faced.
"Just forget about it, keep pitching," Nova said. "I think my stuff was good today. I gave up the three runs in that [third] inning, but it's not the end of the game. You've got to keep fighting and give my team a chance to win the game."
Claiming ownership: Nova could not escape Shaw in the third inning, however. With two on and one out -- which came when Eric Thames' grounder hit Domingo Santana running from first to second -- Shaw stepped up to the plate against Nova. On an 0-2 count, Shaw unloaded on a 93.4-mph fastball in the zone and clobbered it to right-center field. The ball left PNC Park and bounced into the Allegheny River for a three-run homer, Shaw's 21st of the season. He singled again in the fifth, making him 10-for-13 with three home runs, two doubles and eight RBIs in his career against Nova.
"I can't really pinpoint what it is," Shaw said. "Everybody seems to have one guy they really enjoy hitting off of, and Nova tends to be mine."
"He's going to bounce back. The game is cyclical for just about everybody. There's not many guys that have a hot six months. If they do, they get a big trophy at the end. It's called the MVP."--Hurdle, on Harrison, who entered Tuesday hitting just .182 in his past 27 games
"It's key for us to bounce back here close to the Trade Deadline. We haven't played very well in the second half. The wins that we have had have been come-from-behind wins, as well. We need to play a little bit better all around, and I am confident that we will." --Shaw, on the Brewers' three-game skid
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Pirates are within two games of .500 for the first time since May 6, when they were 14-16. They are 32-26 since May 13; the Brewers are 33-27 in that stretch.
The Brewers are 3-for-23 with runners in scoring position during their three-game losing streak.
SHAW, COUNSELL EJECTED
After taking a called third strike from Hudson that appeared to be outside the zone in the eighth inning, Shaw was quickly ejected by home-plate umpire Mike Muchlinski. Counsell emerged from the dugout to argue with Muchlinski and was also tossed.
"He didn't like my reaction to his mistake, obviously," said Shaw, who slammed his bat to the ground after the call in frustration. "It's a one-run game in the eighth. He has got to be a little better than that, but it is what it is. He called it a strike. He didn't like my reaction."
Brewers:Zach Davies will start the third game of the Brewers' four-game series against the Pirates on Wednesday at 6:05 p.m. CT at PNC Park. Davies has yet to take a losing decision on the road this season, going 5-0 with a 3.62 ERA in nine starts. He is 1-1 in two starts vs. the Pirates, but he allowed seven earned runs over five innings in a loss to them on June 20.
Pirates: Right-hander Gerrit Cole will start the third game of the Pirates' four-game series against the Brewers at 7:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Cole has done well in each of his first two starts against Milwaukee this season, holding the Brewers to one run over seven innings each time out. Cole held the Cardinals to two runs on four hits over six innings on Friday in his first start of the second half.
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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.
Jonathan Toye is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh and covered the Brewers on Tuesday.