Pirates rally; but then Brewers do, too
PITTSBURGH — A seemingly safe five-run ninth-inning lead gone in a flash, the Milwaukee Brewers were badly in need of a pickup.
Facing one of the best closers in the majors, Orlando Arcia provided one.
The shortstop’s sharp single off Pittsburgh’s Felipe Vazquez in the top of the 10th inning started a rally that ended with Lorenzo Cain’s go-ahead RBI single to put the Brewers ahead for good as Milwaukee ended a three-game losing streak to move in front of idle Chicago for first-place in the airtight NL Central.
“I think it’s one of those things where you have to do something good to change around the feeling,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said.
Good feelings were in short supply in the Milwaukee dugout after the Pirates erased a five-run deficit in the ninth.
Starling Marte’s sacrifice fly scored Melky Cabrera and got the Pirates going. All-Star first baseman Josh Bell followed two batters later with a three-run shot to the right-field seats off Delios Guerra to get Pittsburgh within one. Milwaukee reliever Junior Guerra came on in an attempt to get the final out. His first pitch to Jung Ho Kang ended up in the left-field bleachers to tie the game.
“That pitch to Kang was kind of in the middle,” Junior Guerra said. “I expect that he’s not going to swing on the first pitch. That’s why I don’t throw fastball.”
The Brewers, however, bounced back against Vazquez (2-1). Arcia singled with one out, moved to third on Manny Pina’s single and scored when Cain’s sharp grounder got through the hole between first and second base.
“A lot of things happened,” Cain said. “We had the lead there in the end. They ended up coming back. At the end of the day, we find a way to come back and win. We definitely needed that. It was a big boost for the boys.”
Arcia finished 2 for 4, including his 12th home run of the season. Pina and Jesus Aguilar both hit two-run shots during Milwaukee’s four-run eighth that gave the Brewers a five-run lead the bullpen squandered.
Junior Guerra (3-1) picked up the win after blowing the save when he struck out pinch-hitter Joe Musgrove — a starting pitcher by trade — with two on in the bottom of the 10th.
“It felt like the Twilight Zone in a lot of ways,” Counsell said.
Aguilar took advantage of just his second start since mid-June to hit his sixth homer of the season and drive in three runs.
The Brewers appeared to be in good shape after Josh Hader wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh and a four-run eighth pushed Milwaukee’s lead to five.
Bell, who will compete in the Home Run Derby on Monday night in Cleveland, now has 27 home runs on the season and five in his last five games. Adam Frazier finished with three hits and is batting .619 (13 of 21) in July. Pittsburgh has dropped two straight following a stretch in which it went 12-5 to get back into the NL Central race. Despite the loss, Bell believes Pittsburgh’s comeback will pay off going forward.
“I think it sends a message to them it doesn’t matter what the score is,” Bell said. “We’re right there knocking on the door.”
Pirate starter Steven Brault exited after walking Arcia leading off the fifth with discomfort in his left (throwing) shoulder. Brault, coming off a June in which he posted a 2.52 ERA after injuries forced him to join Pittsburgh’s starting rotation full-time, allowed one run on two hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
“It was just tight after every inning,” Brault said. “And in that fifth inning I wasn’t able to get to the point where I needed to be. It was obvious seeing my velocity drop.”