Bryan Reynolds three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning broke a 3-3 tie as the Pirates hung on for a 6-5 victory over the visiting Milwaukee Brewers, bringing them to within 2 1⁄2 games of first place as they take four games off for the All-Star Break.
The Pirates had dropped the opening game of the series on Friday in ten innings after rallying from five runs down in the ninth, but bounced back on Saturday for a rain delayed 12-2 trouncing of the Brew Crew.
On Sunday the Pirates jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second against Milwaukee starter Chase Anderson. With one out Colin Moran lined a ball into the left-center gap, rolling all the way into the notch as Moran rumbled into third with a triple. Switching to small ball, Kevin Newman followed with a grounder through the right side to score Moran with the game’s first run, then raced to third on a perfectly executed hit and run when Jacob Stallings punched a single through the vacated right side. With runners at the corners and one out, pitcher Joe Musgrove took a vicious hack at the first pitch, then on the second dropped down a perfect bunt to the right side, scoring Newman from third without a play.
Milwaukee halved the lead in the top of the fifth when Bucco Killer Jesus Aguilar lined a ball just over the left field wall for his seventh home run of the season.
When the half inning ended and the game was official, the skies finally opened up, but the delay only last 40 minutes.
Once play resumed lefty specialist Alex Claudio was brought on but Adam Frazier greeted him with a double lined down the right field line. Reynolds, who entered the game with a .336 batting average but who’d only had three hits in his last 22 at bats, drove the first pitch he saw deep down the left field line, bouncing on the track and into the stands for a double, driving in Frazier with an insurance run.
Joe Musgrove returned to the mound after the rain delay and worked a scoreless sixth, but in the seventh it was again Aguilar who drove a two-run homer to center to tie the game. Against every opponent this year, Aguilar had a 200/308/297 batting line in 195 plate appearances, with four doubles and four homeruns, but in only 25 trips to the plate against the Pirates has two doubles and four homeruns.
Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell called on Junior Guerra to protect the tie, despite having surrendered a game tying homer to Jung-ho Kang on Friday. Kevin Kramer, just called up and playing his first major league game of the season, worked a five pitch walk to start the inning. Frazier continued smoking line drives, this one a single to left. Up stepped Reynolds, and on a 3-2 pitch lifted it high to right center, falling into the seats to give the Pirates a three-run lead.
In cam Kyle Crick for the eighth, who hadn’t pitched since Tuesday even though that game snapped a streak of nine appearances in which Crick had walked a batter. Over Crick’s last thirteen games, he’d posted a 3.29 ERA in 13 2⁄3 innings, but with three home runs and 17 walks while fanning 21.
Crick then proceeded to walk the leadoff batter Mike Moustakas on five pitches. After Yasmani Grandal went down swinging, rookie slugger Keston Hiura lifted a high fly to right, but with the short Clemente Wall, the ball found the seats and cut the Pirates to one at 6-5.
After Crick fanned Eric Thames, he was gone as Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle signalled for his All-Star closer, Felipe “The Nightmare” Vazquez. Aguilar dropped a pop fly in front of Melky Cabrera in right for a single. In stepped Mauricio Dubron to make his major league debut. He fouled off five straight pitches before grounding out to first and ending the inning.
One more trip to the mound in the ninth for Vazquez, and Tyler Saladino lined the first pitch to left for a single, bringing the lead run to the plate. Manny Pina went down swinging, the Lorenzo Cain slashed a ball at 100 mph - but right at second baseman Frazier, who flipped to shortstop Newman covering second and then on to first base, where Josh Bell had to stretch way out to grab the ball and stay on the base before the speedy Cain arrived. A short video review later, the double play was confirmed and the game was over.
Combined with the Cubs loss to the cross town White Sox, the Pirates gained a game on first place, pulling them to 2 1⁄2 games behind the Cubs as the major leagues take a break for the All-Star game. The Pirates will resume play on Friday afternoon, with a game at 2:20 p.m. Eastern in Wrigley Field in Chicago against those first place Cubs.