The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

May 17, 2013

Bucs brew third-straight win

CRESSON — The ball left Travis Snider’s bat and he took off with his head down. The Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder had imagined driving the ball into the Allegheny River since he joined the team last summer.

In Snider’s daydreams, the homer always went down the right field line, the shortest route out of PNC Park.

Reality turned out to be even sweeter. And longer.

Snider’s 458-foot longball over the bushes in right-center propelled the Pirates to a 7-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday night. The two-run shot was Snider’s first homer since last August, an eternity for a guy once considered a power-hitting prospect.

That’s why he didn’t look up. Snider thought he had homered earlier in the season and flipped his bat in celebration only to end up with a double. Not this time. He sprinted around the bases without so much as peeking from under his cap to see where the ball landed.

“For me it’s not how far it goes,” Snider said. “It’s just about getting it over the fence. It’s been a struggle, a long nine months or so.”

Snider finished 3 for 5 with three RBIs, including the 31st homer to end up in the river in the 12-year history of the ballpark. Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Garrett Jones and Russell Martin all had two hits as Pittsburgh won for the sixth time in seven games.

Francisco Liriano (2-0) allowed one run on six hits over 5 2-3 innings, striking out seven and walking three. The veteran left-hander reached 96 mph with his fastball and overcame a sloppy first inning before settling down.

“I just try to stay calm, not try to do too much, hit my spot and just focus on location,” Liriano said. “Pitching is all about location. I’m locating my fastball a lot better and my slider is working for me so far.”

Burgos gave up three runs in five innings but Milwaukee’s offense sputtered. The Brewers have lost 11 of 13.

“I know we’re going to be fine,” Milwaukee center fielder Carlos Gomez said. “This is a problem that can be fixed because we have good players. It’s tough now, though. It’s embarrassing. We have a lot of expectations on this team and we’re not playing up to them.”

The Pirates sure are. Pittsburgh moved to 24-17 with the win, matching the franchise’s best start through the first quarter of the season in 21 years. The 1992 Pirates also began the season 24-17 and finished with 96 victories while capturing the NL East. It’s also the last time Pittsburgh finished the season with a winning record.

“We’re in a good place right now,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.

The romp capped a dramatic turnaround in one of baseball’s most lopsided rivalries. Milwaukee has dominated the Pirates over the last six years, coming into the series 71-25 against Pittsburgh since 2007.

Milwaukee won the opener on Monday before the Pirates responded with a 4-3 win on Tuesday in 12 innings. A 3-1 victory followed on Wednesday before Thursday’s rout, the first time the Pirates have won three straight against the Brewers in the same series since Aug. 16-18, 2009.

Liriano, who signed a two-year free agent contract in the offseason, sparkled in his home debut. The veteran left-hander missed the season’s first six weeks while recovering from a broken right arm. He sailed through his first start, an 11-2 win over the New York Mets last Saturday.

Things were a little tighter this time around. The Brewers pushed a run across in the first on an RBI single by Jonathan Lucroy, an inning that could have been bigger if leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki hadn’t been gunned down trying to steal second after a leadoff walk and McCutchen didn’t rob Ryan Braun of extra bases with a leaping grab at the wall in center.

The veteran left-hander seemed to settle down immediately. He struck out four straight batters at one point and worked out of a trouble spot in the fifth when Jonathan Lucroy flied out to left with two on to preserve a 1-all game.

Snider broke the tie in the bottom of the inning. Marte led off with an infield hit then Snider crushed an 85 mph fastball.

“I threw a fastball up and down the middle of the plate and he put a good swing on it,” Burgos said.

Burgos gave up three runs on eight hits with a walk and three strikeouts, and he remains winless since winning his major league debut against the Chicago Cubs on April 20.

Milwaukee had a chance in the sixth after Clint Barmes bobbled a potential double-play ball at shortstop. Reliever Justin Wilson came on with two outs and retired pinch-hitter Aramis Ramirez on a fly to left with two on to preserve the lead for Liriano.

The Pirates broke it open in the sixth off reliever Alfredo Figaro, ripping off five straight hits to score four runs and give the bullpen plenty of cushion on a night closer Jason Grilli was not available after being given the day off by Hurdle.

NOTES: Four-time All-Star reliever Francisco Rodriguez, called up from Triple-A Nashville early Thursday, struck out one batter during his perfect inning of work ... Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, pitched four innings in a rehab start at Double-A Altoona on Thursday. Morton gave up two runs on two hits with one walk and one strikeout. His next start will come at Triple-A Indianapolis next week ... The Pirates open a three-game series with Houston on Friday. Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.28 ERA) starts for the Pirates against Houston’s Jordan Lyles (1-1, 8.36) ... Milwaukee travels to St. Louis Friday. Wily Peralta (3-3, 5.40) faces Jaime Garcia (4-2, 2.88).

 

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