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Broxton, Carter homer; Crew sweeps Pirates

July 31, 2016

MILWAUKEE -- No Ryan Braun? No Jonathan Lucroy? No problem. Led by a pair of homers off Francisco Liriano, the Brewers beat the Pirates, 4-2, on Sunday to complete a three-game series sweep at Miller Park.The weekend sweep -- accomplished without Braun, who's nursing an injury, and mostly without Lucroy,

MILWAUKEE -- No Ryan Braun? No Jonathan Lucroy? No problem. Led by a pair of homers off Francisco Liriano, the Brewers beat the Pirates, 4-2, on Sunday to complete a three-game series sweep at Miller Park.
The weekend sweep -- accomplished without Braun, who's nursing an injury, and mostly without Lucroy, who popped out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning amid rampant trade speculation -- continued the Brewers' mastery over the Pirates in Milwaukee. The Brewers are 64-17 against Pittsburgh at Miller Park since 2007, and Sunday's win stretched the Crew's home winning streak over the Bucs to nine games.
"That was a homestand where a bunch of different guys stepped up," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "They were guys we haven't counted on heavily this year, but they did a great job."

The Brewers cruised through the weekend, as the Pirates didn't hold a lead at any point in series' 27 innings and managed only six runs over three days at one of the league's most hitter-friendly parks.
"They made better pitches than when we [last] saw them," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's been one of the challenges we've had here at different times. Too many strikeouts. Too many soft outs. Throughout the series, they pitched better. We still had pitches to hit. We weren't able to string together innings. This is one we need to make some adjustments from going forward."
On Sunday, the Brewers received a jolt of power from two players -- one that was to be expected, the other less so. First baseman Chris Carter homered off Liriano in the fifth inning, his 24th of the season. Center fielder Keon Broxton, batting eighth, swatted his second homer of the season off Liriano in the second inning. Right-hander Matt Garza turned in one of his most effective starts of the season, allowing two runs (one earned) while striking out five over five innings.

Perez production: One day after Byron Buxton of the Twins scored from first base on a steal, third baseman Hernán Pérez replicated the feat. Following a two-out single in the first, Perez stole second base, as catcher Eric Fryer's throw skipped into shallow center field. With Andrew McCutchen playing deep to account for Carter's power at the plate, it allowed Perez to round third and slide in safely at home ahead of McCutchen's throw, giving the Brewers a 1-0 lead. Perez reached on a bunt single and scored in the third, capping a July in which he batted .320 with a .520 slugging percentage and four homers.
"I was thinking third, so as soon as I saw [third base coach Ed Sedar] send me, I said, 'OK, I'll do my best,'" Perez said. "I put 100 percent of my velocity into it and I made it."

Better, still not his best: After giving up seven runs and failing to complete four innings his last time out, Liriano allowed four runs on six hits while striking out seven on Sunday. It was still a far cry from the pitcher who struck out 13 Brewers without a walk over 6 2/3 innings at PNC Park on July 21 -- and nowhere near the performance the Pirates came to expect from Liriano over the previous three seasons. The veteran lefty's ERA climbed to 5.46 after the five-inning outing, the second-highest mark in the Majors for a qualified starter.
"This is part of the game," Liriano said. "I feel super healthy. I feel good. I feel strong. But this is just part of the game."

Neon Keon: Broxton has scuffled at the plate for much of his rookie season but found his cure over the weekend: facing the team that traded him away. Leading off the second, Broxton turned around a two-seamer from Liriano for his second career homer, putting Milwaukee up 2-0. Broxton went 4-for-8 with three walks and hit for the cycle during the series against the Pirates, who traded him to the Crew along with pitching prospect Trey Supak in exchange for infielder Jason Rogers in December.
"It's a lot of fun," Broxton said of playing Pittsburgh. "It's a lot of fun playing against guys I know, period. It makes the game a lot more fun and a lot more interesting."

Broxton credits his improvements at the plate to an adjustment that brought his hands lower than they were previously. With his hands loaded higher before, Broxton said he was lowering them before the pitch was thrown, creating a hitch in his swing.
"It caused a lot of problems when I was here," Broxton said. "I was late on everything and it's just hard to hit like that. I just dropped them and told myself, 'Well, if I drop them, I can't pick them up and drop them back down.'"

Welcome aboard: Rookie infielder Max Moroff made his Major League debut as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, leading off against left-hander Will Smith. Called up Sunday morning, Moroff struck out on five pitches. Lefty reliever Felipe Rivero, acquired in the Mark Melancon trade on Saturday, made his Pirates debut in the eighth. He threw a scoreless inning, striking out two while allowing a hit and a walk on 30 pitches.
"He might have been a little over-amped," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Pitch efficiency was a little rusty. ... He got the first one under his belt."

"They've shown me nothing but love and respect, and that's all you can ask out of your home fans." -- Lucroy, who earlier in the day vetoed a trade to the Indians
"I think it's a good thing that I'm not being carted out of here." -- Josh Harrison, on his status after a sore right leg forced him to leave the game in the sixth inning

Harrison had to exit the game with right leg discomfort due to a collision with Broxton at first base in the sixth. Broxton laid down a bunt and was running at full speed toward the bag when the throw from David Freese forced Harrison, who was covering first, to make an adjustment. Harrison secured the ball for the out, but his momentum took him into the first base line, where he collided with Broxton. Pirates medical staff was treating and evaluating Harrison as the game progressed.
In the third, the Brewers challenged the ruling that Harrison's foot was on the base while turning a double play. The ruling on the field was confirmed, helping Liriano escape a bases-loaded jam by giving up just the one run that scored on the double play.

Pirates: With Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline in the rear-view mirror, right-hander Gerrit Cole will open the Pirates' final series at Turner Field at 7:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday night. Cole will be looking to follow up his complete-game gem against the Mariners with another strong start. He is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in three starts against the Braves.
Brewers: Milwaukee will head west to face the Padres at Petco Park at 9:10 p.m. CT Monday to begin a string of six games against NL West opponents. Jimmy Nelson will get the start for the Brewers. Nelson faced the Padres in May, picking up the loss despite throwing eight innings of two-run ball in one of his better starts this season.
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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Curt Hogg is a reporter for based in Milwaukee.