After losing to the Milwaukee Brewers seven consecutive times, causing Pirates fans worldwide to ask each other, pointedly and searchingly, "Why can't the Pirates beat the Brewers?," tonight they finally did. The Pirates won 6-3 behind strong pitching by Charlie Morton and timely hitting by backup catcher Chris Stewart.
Tonight's game began inauspiciously, as did last night's. The Brewers took a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first on a hard-hit double by Elian Herrera and a home run to center field by Adam Lind. But after surrendering a leadoff single to the light-hitting Logan Schafer to begin the top of the second, Morton got his sinker working, and it began to generate the ground balls that are the coin of his realm. Schafer was quickly erased on a double play, as was Scooter Gennett in the top of the third after he had reached on an Aramis Ramirez error at first base. Morton recorded two more ground outs in the fourth, another in the fifth, and a ground out and double play in the sixth, his final inning.
By that time, the Pirates were ahead 3-2. Arch-nemesis Jimmy Nelson, who entered the game 4-1 this year with a 1.72 ERA against the Pirates, mowed them down in familiar fashion in the first three innings as the Pirates made nine outs on the ground without a ball reaching the outfield. But in the bottom of the fourth, Josh Harrison led off with a single and Andrew McCutchen drew a walk. After Ramirez flew out to left and Jung Ho Kang struck out, Nelson seemed intent to bypass Neil Walker with Jordy Mercer on deck, walking him on four pitches. When Mercer fell behind 0-2, the inning's early promise appeared to be evaporating; but Mercer worked the count to 2-2 and fouled off several two-strike pitches before recording a hard-earned infield single up the middle, scoring Harrison with the Pirates' first run. Stewart followed with another single scoring McCutchen and Walker, and the Pirates had a lead that they never relinquished.
They scored another run in the sixth and two more in the seventh. Nelson hit Kang with a pitch to lead off the sixth and left the game after Walker followed with a single. After Mercer struck out, Stewart drove in his third run of the evening with another single off reliever Tyler Cravy, scoring Kang. Cravy escaped further damage by striking out pinch-hitter Travis Snider and Harrison, the latter leaving the bases loaded after an infield single by Gregory Polanco.
In the seventh, the Pirates extended their lead to 6-2 on a single by McCutchen, an RBI double by Kang, a wild pitch by David Goforth that moved Kang to third, and a sacrifice fly by Walker.
Easy, right? Nope, not when the Pirates are playing the Brewers.
After Joakim Soria pitched a dominant seventh, the Bucs went to Arquimedes Caminero in the eighth, and he gave up solid hits to Martin Maldonado and Domingo Santana. Clint Hurdle had expressed concern before the game about Tony Watson's workload and suggested that he might like to give him another day of rest today, but he did not hesitate to bring in Watson to face lefty Gennett. The Brewers countered with pinch-hitter Hernan Perez, who singled off Watson to drive in Maldonado. On the play, Polanco threw to third base despite having no hope of throwing out Santana, which allowed Perez to advance to second and put two runners in scoring position. But Watson then bore down and struck out Herrera and Lind. When he walked Khris Davis on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases, the Brewers brought in Ryan Braun from the bench as a pinch hitter, conjuring nightmare images of Braun home runs of the past. The nightmare ended quickly, though: Watson retired Braun on the second pitch he delivered, an easy bouncer to Kang.
Mark Melancon pitched a quiet ninth. The good team had beaten the not-so-good team, and the universe once again seemed orderly, rational, and predictable.