The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 13, 2013

Milwaukee brings out worst in Bucs

PITTSBURGH — The way the Milwaukee Brewers figure it, they were due. Then again, they always seem due when they play the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Marco Estrada allowed three hits over seven innings and the Brewers ran wild over the Pirates in a 5-1 victory on Monday to snap a four-game losing streak. Milwaukee began the night just 1-9 in May but stole a season-high six bases against Pittsburgh backup catcher Mike McKenry and took advantage of three Pirate errors.

“We needed to get back on the right track,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “We got a couple breaks, a couple choppers, that went our way. So that was nice to see, but we played a good game.”

Norichika Aoki went 3 for 5 with three RBIs and two stolen bases for the Brewers. Jean Segura added three hits and three stolen bases as Milwaukee at will against A.J. Burnett (3-4) and McKenry, filling in while starter Russell Martin deals with a neck problem.

“I did what I could, Mike did what he could,” Burnett said. “It’s not for not trying. They’re going to run on everything and when you have speed most of the time it’s going to play in your favor. It’s my fault for not keeping them off the bases.”

Burnett allowed four runs in seven innings and pushed his National League-leading strikeout total to 72, but Pittsburgh couldn’t extend its winning streak to a season-high four games as the Brewers used their speed to take advantage of several rallies in which the ball barely got out of the infield.

“Sometimes you’d rather have them hit balls 800 feet,” Burnett said.

Estrada (3-2) bounced back from a rough start against St. Louis by striking out five and issuing just one walk to improve to 4-0 in his career against Pittsburgh. Roenicke pushed back Estrada’s next start to give him some time to work on some things. It paid off with his best performance of the season.

“You get more days to work on stuff and I think mentally it helps because you forget about whatever,” Estrada said.

The Brewers needed to find ways to generate offense while playing without star Ryan Braun, given the night off as a precaution after a neck issue that bothered him earlier this season against Los Angeles flared up.

Aoki and Segura more than picked up the slack, taking the extra base whenever the opportunity presented itself.

“It’s the same as every night, we just try to stay aggressive on the basepaths and if you can go for the next base, we go for it,” Aoki said. “That just showed tonight.”

While McKenry can be a sparkplug at times offensively, his defense remains an issue. He allowed the New York Mets to steal four bases on Sunday, and things only got worse at the start of a 10-game homestand – all against sub-.500 teams – the Pirates hope will allow them to make inroads on streaking St. Louis in the NL Central.

The trouble started early. Aoki doubled to lead off the game and Segura reached on an infield hit. Segura promptly dashed to second even though McKenry called a pitchout. Aoki scored when Carlos Gomez’s chopper to the mound skipped of Burnett’s glove and rolled away.

Burnett escaped the first by allowing just the one run, but Aoki and Segura struck again in the fifth. Logan Schafer led off with a double and moved to third on Estrada’s sacrifice bunt. Aoki followed with a double then swiped third and scored on a swinging bunt by Segura.

The Pirates, meanwhile, could manage nothing against Estrada, who gave Milwaukee’s beleaguered pitching staff a much-needed quality start. The Brewers have the worst ERA (4.70) in the NL, a number that took a serious uptick when Estrada was shelled in his previous start, giving up eight runs in 3 1-3 innings against the Cardinals.

There were no such issues against the Pirates. Estrada improved to 4-0 against Pittsburgh. The Pirates touched him for a run in the seventh on Pedro Alvarez’s RBI-groundout but by then he was staked to a 4-1 lead thanks to a bumbling sequence in Burnett’s final inning of work.

Schafer hit a dribbled to first to lead off the seventh but reached when Gaby Sanchez couldn’t collect the ball and step on the bag. Schafer then moved to second when Burnett threw wildly to first trying to keep Schafer near the bag. One batter later Aoki dribbled a grounder that Burnett mishandled for his second error of the inning. Schafer scored and Milwaukee was firmly in control.

“Tonight it was a storm we didn’t have answers for out there,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “This has not been the norm, this has been abnormal for us. I’m going to go, take a shower, head to the house and get ready to play tomorrow.”

Notes: Milwaukee 2B Rickie Weeks did not start for the first time this season. Manager Ron Roenicke felt Weeks could use the rest. Weeks entered the game in the ninth as a pinch hitter and struck out to drop his average to .181. ... The series continues Tuesday. Kyle Lohse (1-4, 3.53 ERA) starts for the Brewers against Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke (3-1, 2.95) ... Pirates closer Jason Grilli left the ballpark for a few hours Monday afternoon due to a personal issue but the NL leader in saves returned by the middle of the game ... Pittsburgh 2B Neil Walker went 0 for 4 in his return from the 15-day disabled list with a hand injury.

 

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