On the day of the Brewers’ “Star Wars Night” promotion, with Wookiees and stormtroopers aplenty in the stands, the Force was with the visiting club. Nick Kingham’s second start may not have been perfect, but it was good enough to bring the Pirates a much-needed 6-4 win in the series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Bucs drew first blood in the top of the first inning, with considerable help from the Brewers. Milwaukee starter Junior Guerra walked Gregory Polanco and surrendered a sharp single to Starling Marte, and then Brewers catcher Manny Pina committed a throwing error on a pickoff attempt, sending the runners to second and third. Guerra proceeded to walk two more batters to force in a run, before striking out Colin Moran with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Pina atoned for his mistake with a solo home run in the bottom of the second, but then the Pirates struck back and put two more runs on the board in their half of the third. Josh Bell reached base on a single, and when Guerra missed his target badly and left a meatball over the plate, Corey Dickerson deposited it in the upper deck to give the Pirates a 3-1 lead.
The Pirates extended that margin by two additional runs in the fifth. Polanco led off with a single, and Marte followed with a drive to the notch in deep center field that went over the head of Lorenzo Cain. Cain seemed to be planning to play the carom, but the ball took a strange bounce and headed away from Cain at a 90-degree angle in the direction of right field. It ended up as an easy inside-the-park home run for Marte, who scored standing up and could’ve had a fighting chance at making it back to first base before the throw arrived, if he’d been so inclined.
Meanwhile, Kingham had largely been cruising, with seven strikeouts through five innings, and only the Pina home run, a fourth-inning double by Travis Shaw, and a long fly ball just outside the right-field foul pole by Christian Yelich as particularly threatening moments. The wheels came off in the sixth, though, as a bloop double by Yelich, a single by Jesus Aguilar, and a home run by Domingo Santana brought the Brewers back within one run and earned Kingham a fairly early hook.
Fortunately, Edgar Santana was able to bring the inning to a close, and from that point the game was in the hands of the Pirates’ bullpen, which bent but didn’t break. Michael Feliz, George Kontos, and Felipe Vazquez allowed a total of five baserunners over the final three innings, but none advanced beyond second base. The Pirates added an insurance run in the ninth inning, when David Freese led off with a line drive homer to right, to provide the final margin of victory.
Tomorrow’s game kicks off at 7:10 p.m., with Jameson Taillon taking on Jhoulys Chacin.