Chris Stewart went 3-for-3, Gregory Polanco went deep, Jameson Taillon was effective if not efficient, and the bullpen continued to get just enough outs as the Pirates beat the for-now first-place Brewers, 4-2, to complete a four-game sweep.
The Pirates initially had their usual problems with old nemesis Jimmy Nelson and his tough breaking stuff. Nelson had limited the Pirates to a .593 team OPS over his career. He recorded eight straight outs against the top four hitters in the order the first two times through. The Pirates eked out a run in the second after Adam Frazier singled with two out. Frazier was called out on a steal attempt, but the replay showed he had cleverly and successfully pulled his left hand away from the tag, and sneaked his right hand onto the base. After a walk, Chris Stewart dumped a soft line drive over first to bring in a run.
Jameson Taillon, meanwhile, was racking up the strikeouts, seven of them in the first three innings, but he was also throwing a lot of pitches. In the fourth, he had some problems with the strike zone. An infield hit followed a leadoff walk to put two on. Taillon then fell behind struggling rookie Brett Phillips, who’d whiffed in ten of 17 at-bats coming into the game. Phillips laced a 2-1 pitch into the corner in right for an RBI double to tie the game. A groundout put the Brewers on top, 2-1.
Gregory Polanco tied the game in the bottom of the fourth when he drilled his ninth HR into the seats in center. In the fifth, Stewart singled to right again. Taillon bunted him to second and Starling Marte struck out. Stewart’s approach to Nelson’s breaking balls may have caught on, though, as Josh Harrison broke up Nelson’s dominance of the top of the order by lining a slider to right for an RBI single. Harrison took second on the throw home and scored when Andrew McCutchen looped another RBI single just over the secondbaseman.
Taillon meanwhile recovered with a 1-2-3 fifth, but by then he was up to 102 pitches. He came out for the sixth, which started with a ten-pitch at-bat by Hernan Perez, ending in a remarkable grab of a liner by Harrison. A double by Manny Pina finished Taillon’s afternoon at five and a third innings, with eight strikeouts.
The setup men then did what they’ve been doing a lot lately, managing to hang on. Wade LeBlanc, Daniel Hudson and Juan Nicasio got eight outs while allowing three hits and two walks. Hudson was helped by a replay-confirmed caught stealing and Nicasio by a double play ball. And then Felipe Rivero did what he’s been doing, setting the Brewers down in the ninth for the save.
And now the Pirates are at .500 and three games out of first. They’re also a game and a half ahead of some scruffy birds who managed to lose again to the decimated Mets. The Bucs managed to win four games against the heavy-hitting Brewers without ever scoring more than four runs. They head west now for six games against Colorado and San Francisco.