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Pirates complete sweep of Brewers with efficient 5-2 win

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Twelve games into the 2015 season, the Pirates evened their record at 6-6 with a win, completing a sweep of the presently hapless Milwaukee Brewers, now 2-10.

A stiff inward-blowing wind helped Pirates starter Gerrit Cole escape trouble in the top of the first, as Starling Marte was able to track down a long fly in left center by Gerardo Parra with the bases loaded and two out. The Brewers threat had developed from an error by third baseman Josh Harrison, his first in 71 innings, a single up the middle by Adam Lind, and a walk to Khris Davis.

After that escape, the Pirates appeared ready to make quick work of the Brewers and their emotionally volatile hurler Matt Garza in the bottom of the first. Harrison led off with a single, Gregory Polanco reached when third baseman Luis Jimenez's throw to first hit Polanco for an error, Harrison scored and Polanco moved to second on a wild pitch by Garza, and Andrew McCutchen singled Polanco home. After a walk to Neil Walker, though, Garza struck out Starling Marte, who had another day looking lost at the plate, and then retired Pedro Alvarez and Jordy Mercer, keeping the score at 2-0.

Another defensive misadventure victimized Cole in the second as the Brewers tied the score 2-2. Scooter Gennett led off with a single and then appeared to make an unwise decision in testing Starling Marte's arm going for third on a single by Jimenez. But Harrison was unable to handle the throw, putting runners at second and third with no out. Gennett scored on a ground out by Jean Segura, Jimenez scored on a single by Jonathan Lucroy, and the game was tied.

Thereafter, though, Cole and the three Pirates relievers who followed--Jared Hughes, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon--shut the Brewers down completely, facing the minimum number of batters in innings three through nine with the aid of two double plays that neutralized the Brewers' two additional hits. Cole went right to work in the third by striking out the side and ended his 95-pitch day going six innings, giving up five hits, walking one, and striking out six. Hughes struck out two in the seventh, Watson continued his post-opening-day dominance in the eighth, and Melancon pitched a quick ninth aided by a game-ending double play.

Pedro Alvarez put the Bucs ahead to stay in the bottom of the third inning with his fourth homer of the year, the first of his two long drives to straightaway center field. The second, in the eighth inning, was kept in the park by the wind, and Alvarez was retired on a good play by Parra. After another day of mostly solid play at first base, where he seems to be gaining confidence daily, the Pedro-to-first-base experiment is going quite well.

Backup catcher Chris Stewart, making his first start after returning from the disabled list, delivered another key hit. In the sixth, with the Bucs holding on to a 3-2 lead, Alvarez walked, Mercer was hit in the ribs by a pitch while trying to bunt Alvarez to second, and then Garza uncorked a wild pitch, putting Alvarez and pinch runner Jung-Ho Kang, who replaced Mercer, on second and third. Garza fell behind Stewart 2-0, and then Stewart smacked a nifty line drive down the left-field line, giving the Bucs two insurance runs. In combination with the Pirates' dominant relief pitching, those two runs made for a relaxing final three innings at the ballpark.