The final score may not indicate it, but early on this game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Pittsburgh Pirates had all the makings of a good old fashioned pitcher’s duel. Southpaw Steven Brault got the start for the home team and Zach Davies started for the visitors, with both hurlers tossing up zeroes in the first three frames. Milwaukee drew first blood in the fourth inning. Yasmani Grandal led off with a double, then moved up to third on a groundout by Mike Moustakas. Keston Hiura struck with a runner on third and less than two outs, but fortunately Jesus Aguilar was there to pick him up. Aguilar’s opposite-field single plated Grandal and gave the Brewers a 1-0 advantage.
Brault’s day was done after four innings of one-run ball as he was pulled from the game with left shoulder discomfort in the top of the fifth. Davies worked a bit deeper, navigating through five scoreless frames before turning things over to the bullpen. A slow starter historically, Zach wound up turning in a 3.07 ERA in 96.2 innings for the Menomonee Valley Nine before the All-Star break in 2019.
Matt Albers recorded the first two outs of the sixth inning before allowing a base hit to Josh Bell and giving way to Alex Claudio, who struck out pinch-hitter Jung Ho Kang to end the frame. The Brewers added another run to their ledger in the top of the seventh thanks to a solo home run by Orlando Arcia, increasing the lead to 2-0. Jeremy Jeffress came out for the bottom of the inning and looked to be cruising towards a 1-2-3 seventh when he induced a fly ball to center off the bat of Elias Diaz, but then Lorenzo Cain dropped the ball in the outfield, allowing Diaz to reach on an error. Jeffress then walked Melky Cabrera on four straight pitches before giving up an 0-2 single to Adam Frazier that scored Pittsburgh’s first run. That prompted Craig Counsell to summon Josh Hader for what figured to be a multi-inning save opportunity. Hader plunked Bryan Reynolds but got Starling Marte on a pop up to end the inning and keep the 2-1 lead intact.
Milwaukee’s offense finally came to life in the top of the eighth and looked to have broken the game open. A one-out walk by Hiura brought Jesus to the plate, and he crushed a 1-0 fastball that Dovydas Neverauskas left right down the middle. The home run to left-center made it a 4-1 advantage. Tyler Saladino followed that with an infield single and moved up to second on an Arcia groundout. Manny Pina, who entered the game an inning early as part of the double switch to bring in Hader, then smashed a two-run homer of his own. Pina’s fourth dinger of the year brought the lead up to 6-1.
Hader came back out and threw a scoreless eighth, and then Counsell decided that a five-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning would be a good spot for Deolis Guerra to make his team debut after getting called up the day before. Things started off well enough with a lineout by Elias Diaz, but then Melky Cabrera lined a soft single on 0-2 to reach base. After him, Adam Frazier hit another 0-2 pitch for a single. Jacob Stallings lined Deolis’ first pitch of the next at-bat to left to load the bases for Starling Marte, who lifted a sacrifice fly to make it a 6-2 game. Then Josh Bell deposited a first-pitch changeup over the wall and deep into the bleachers in right-center to make it 6-5. Counsell yanked one Guerra in favor of another, inserting Junior to face Kang. Unfortunately, Our Hero hung a first-pitch curveball that Jung Ho walloped out to left field to tie the game at 6 apiece. A groundout by Corey Dickerson mercifully ended the inning and sent the game to extras.
Clint Hurdle turned to his star closer Felipe Vazquez in the 10th, but the lineup was ready for his triple-digit heat. Arcia got the rally started with a one-out single back through the box. The Pina lined a single up the middle that brought Arcia all the way around to third. Lorenzo Cain poked an RBI single through the hole on the right side of the infield to score Arcia and retake the lead at 7-6.
That’s where the score stood when Our Hero returned to the mound to finish out the game. Kevin Newman grounded out to lead things off, then that pesky Diaz singled through the left side. Cabrera lined out to center, then Frazier hit a squibber back through the box that Arcia couldn’t handle, which went for an infield single. Out of position players, the Pirates had to send Joe Musgrove to the plate to pinch-hit with the game on the line. Junior struck him out on four pitches and Milwaukee secured their 47th victory of the season, moving a half-game ahead of the idle Cubs for first place in the NL Central.
These two teams return to action at PNC Park on Saturday afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM central. Trevor Williams was originally scheduled to start for the Steel City Nine, but he was placed on paternity leave yesterday and instead minor league call-up Dario Agrazal will get the ball. Adrian Houser toe the slab for Milwaukee.