Michael Morse hit a grand slam and Jeff Locke had a strong start as the Pirates routed the Brewers 10-2 Saturday, not only winning a satisfying game but also making up ground in their race for a division title in the process.
As with the last time he faced the Pirates, diminutive Brewers rookie Zach Davies went once through the order without much trouble and then ran into a wall the second time through -- the Bucs were quiet through the first two innings, but they scored five runs against Davies in the third.
Gregory Polanco and Josh Harrison reached via a walk and a single, respectively, and Andrew McCutchen dropped a single into right to score a run. Then Aramis Ramirez, who hit a three-run homer against Davies last time out, reached down and lined a double down the line in left to score another.
After Neil Walker walked, Francisco Cervelli (fresh off a great hustling underhand throw to end the top half of the inning) grounded a single up the middle. One run scored, and another came home as Domingo Santana ran past the ball in center. Jordy Mercer brought home yet another run later in the inning with a fielder's choice.
The Bucs tacked on another run in the fourth. Harrison (who went 4-for-4 today) walked, and Ramirez got to Davies yet again, smashing a double to the wall in left center that brought Harrison all the way around.
Locke, meanwhile, pitched well, cruising through six shutout innings before running into trouble in the seventh. He allowed the first two batters to reach base, and then, after striking out the lefty-allergic Adam Lind, walked Santana to load the bases. Locke exited after allowing just three hits while striking out seven and walking two. Jared Hughes came on in relief and allowed a sacrifice fly to end the Pirates' shutout bid, but the inning concluded with the Pirates still in possession of a comfortable 6-1 lead.
The Bucs still had plenty of scoring left in them, however. Cesar Jimenez, recently claimed on waivers from the Phillies, pitched the bottom of the seventh and walked the bases full. Morse then pinch-hit for Hughes and crushed a 3-1 fastball to right for an opposite-field grand slam that gave the Pirates a ten spot for the night.
The Brewers scored a run against Joe Blanton in the eighth, but by that time, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The only way tonight might have been better would be if Elias Diaz, who hit the ball to the track in his first big-league plate appearance, had hit it just a bit farther. This was a great game for the Bucs.
Better still, the Cardinals lost twice to the Reds today, once in the completion of their suspended game from last night and once in their regularly scheduled game. They're 2-8 in their last 10, and they're finally giving the Bucs an opportunity. The Pirates' win tonight puts them just two and a half back in the NL Central division race. They're only two back in the loss column and, of course, they play the Cardinals three more times later this month. The Cards' division lead looked enormous a couple weeks ago. Not so much anymore.