Schafer's sac fly in ninth helps Crew gain on Bucs
After Garza, Roenicke get tossed, Brewers pull within 3 1/2 of Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- Matt Garza was still fuming about his fifth-inning ejection, but a badly needed Brewers victory on Saturday night helped ease his frustration -- if only a bit.
Garza and manager Ron Roenicke were each tossed after Garza plunked Pirates star Andrew McCutchen twice in the span of three innings, and they had to watch on clubhouse televisions as the Brewers scratched out a 1-0 win at PNC Park that extended Milwaukee's involvement in the National League Wild Card race. The Brewers trail the Bucs by 3 1/2 games for the second Wild Card spot with seven to play.
"Those guys, they picked me up," Garza said, a reference to the relievers who positioned the Brewers for the 69th 1-0 win in franchise history. "We came in and we fought all night, just like we did last night. And we're going to do the same thing tomorrow."
Relievers Marco Estrada, Jeremy Jeffress, Will Smith, Brandon Kintzler, Zach Duke and Francisco Rodriguez combined with Garza on a six-hitter, with Kintzler and Duke combining for an eighth-inning escape and Rodriguez tying for 10th all time with his 347th career save. Pinch-hitter Logan Schafer snapped the tie when he lifted a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning.
The Brewers snapped the four-game losing streak which has considerably dimmed their hope of playing in October.
"We had to win this game," Roenicke said. "That's all there is to it."
"We've got a lot of work to do -- a lot of work to do," Schafer said. "We gave away a couple of games on this road trip already, so we're just looking to win every game right now."
In each of the previous two games, an infield single by the opponent in the bottom of the eighth inning contributed to the Brewers losing a lead and, eventually, a game. That's just how Saturday's eighth inning began, with Pirates pinch-hitter Brent Morel reaching on a dribbler to third base off Kintzler to spark a threat that would load the bases with one out. But Kintzler retired Starling Marte on a lineout, and Duke got pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez on a groundout to push a scoreless tie into the ninth inning.
When Ryan Braun singled to spark a rally that culminated with Schafer's run-scoring fly ball off Pirates closer Mark Melancon, it gave the Brewers their eighth run in 52 innings on this road trip.
Garza was practicing excellent damage control before his night was cut short. He stranded a runner in each of the four full innings he pitched, including McCutchen at first base in the third inning after a first-pitch fastball struck McCutchen in the left arm with two outs. When Pirates pitcher Edinson Volquez buzzed Braun in the next half-inning, home-plate umpire Marty Foster issued warnings to both benches.
So when Garza struck McCutchen in the fifth, again with two outs, this time on a 1-2 count, Foster ejected Garza immediately. By rule, Roenicke was tossed, too.
"I think everybody knows he wasn't trying to hit [McCutchen], but the umpire is in a tough spot," Roenicke said. "You've given a warning. If you brush a guy, it's a little bit different. When you hit him up and in, I get why they had to make that call."
Garza was adamant.
"If people think I hit McCutchen on purpose, with a 1-2 count in a game like this, then you're just an idiot, OK?" he said. "Because a game like this, a starter doesn't go after a guy like that. It's a [1-2] count and I'm trying to pitch inside. Guy leans in, it hits him on the elbow, that's my day. So it is what it is, and I'm happy we pulled it out."
Estrada took over for Garza and continued the shutout Garza had started. In 4 2/3 scoreless innings, Garza scattered three hits and two walks, with six strikeouts.
Volquez posted matching scoreless innings through the seventh, allowing only three Brewers hits, with three walks and six strikeouts. He stranded runners in scoring position in each of the first four innings, and reliever Tony Watson did the same after taking over for Volquez in the eighth.
"Really, three of the last four games we could have won," Roenicke said. "I knew they could come out and play hard. I still wish we would swing the bat a little better, but I thought Volquez was really good tonight. It's tough when a guy is throwing the ball well."