Despite lack of offense, Estrada, bullpen shut down Bucs

6:24p This game pretty much proved that it just isn’t possible for the Pirates to beat the Brewers, especially in Milwaukee.

Pirates-Brewers Wrap-Up

A second inning home run by Yuniesky Betancourt was all the Brewers pitching staff needed in a 1-0 win over the Pirates. Starter Marco Estrada held down the Bucs for five innings, in which he gave up no runs and one hit. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out five. Oddly enough, manager Ron Roenicke pulled him in the bottom of the fifth inning for a pinch-hitter, but that pinch-hitter was Zack Greinke, and all he did was a lay down a sacrifice bunt. But, Roenicke’s decision played out, I assume, how he expected it to even before the game started, because the bullpen shut out the Pirates for the remaining four innings.

Pirates starter Kevin Correia was actually pretty good, considering how many baserunners he allowed. He went 6 2/3 innings while giving up a run on seven hits. He walked three and struck out three. Correia could have been hit much harder, but the Brewers uncharacteristically struggled with runners in scoring position at home today. They left 10 guys on against Correia, which spared his already high ERA. But, coming into today, Correia was 10-2 on the road. He is now 10-3 with two of the three losses coming at Miller Park.

Anyway, back to the Brewers bullpen. Takashi Saito, LaTroy Hawkins, and Francisco Rodriguez combined for three shutout innings during which they only gave up one hit (the hit given up by Rodriguez). That set the stage for John Axford, who, as usual, made the ninth somewhat interesting.

Axford gave up a triple leading off the inning to Xavier Paul, and, from there, I was thinking that Axford’s save streak was over. But, with the infield in, he induced to groundball outs and kept the runner at third. After walking Garrett Jones, he struck out Neil Walker to end the game and give the Brewers a 7-0 record against the Bucs this year.

Estrada is clearly a starter.

After seeing his performance today, I realized that Estrada is obviously better as a starter. He just wasn’t getting it done in the bullpen, and came into today having given up at least a run in three consecutive appearances out of the ‘pen. But, today, he was better than all of his appearances since the All-Star break combined.

Betancourt goes deep on 0-2 count

There’s actually a significance to this. We all know that Betancourt is a free-swinging guy, but this stat really shocked me. Betancourt’s home run today marked the first time in his career that he went deep on an 0-2 count. Yep- the first time in 257 at-bats that reached 0-2 in his career. That’s kind of a scary stat, if you think about it, no matter how free-swinging a guy is.

Injury update on Gomez

Injured center fielder Carlos Gomez has started his road back after fracturing his left clavicle in Arizona on July 20 while making a highlight reel catch. He ran sprints and threw from 90 feet for the first time since the injury and is going to start hitting sometime next week. There is still no timetable for Gomez’s return, however.

Before his injury, Gomez in a center field platoon with Nyjer Morgan. Gomez typically got starts against left-handed pitching, while Morgan usually got the starts against right handers.

Up next for the Crew…

The Brewers will go for yet another sweep of the Pirates tomorrow. They’ll send Shaun Marcum (10-3, 3.62 ERA) to the mound. He received a no-decision against the Cardinals his last time out. Marcum has one career start against the Pirates, and that was back on April 13th, when he shut them out for seven innings.

The Pirates will counter with the resurging Charlie Morton (9-6, 3.56 ERA), who currently has a 17 inning scoreless streak going, which includes eight shutout innings of the Giants his last time out. Morton is 0-4 with an 8.31 ERA against the Brewers in his career, but he is a completely changed pitcher this year. If you don’t know his story, then read below. It’s actually sort of cool.

Morton had a horrible 2010 campaign- he went 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA. So, in the offseason, he decided to completely reinvent himself as a pitcher, and changed his arm slot to more of a 3/4 delivery, rather than the overhand motion he used to use. In fact, he pretty much copied the mechanics of Phillies’ ace Roy Halladay. If you watch the two pitchers’ mechanics side by side, it’s pretty tough to find any differences in them. The results, obviously, aren’t as good as Halladay’s, but Morton is having a far better season than he did last year.

Elsewhere around the division…

  • The Cubs are currently leading the Braves, 1-0, in the bottom of the third. That probably won’t last long, though. Especially if another Cubs player decides he wants to retire in the middle of a game. Anyway, the Cubs are 17.5 games back right now.
  • The Reds are beating the Padres, 4-0, in the bottom of the third as well. They are 10.5 games back, and have passed the Pirates to take third place in the division; at least for now.
  • The Cardinals are losing to the Rockies, 3-0, in a game that’s about to go into the fourth inning. The Cards are currently 4.5 games back, and I can’t tell you how huge that would be for the Brewers if they lose today.
  • The Astros and Dodgers start later tonight at 9:10. But really… Does anybody care what the Astros do at this point? That 38-81 mark pretty much defines how their season is going to end.

Box Score

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Pittsburgh Pirates 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0
Milwaukee Brewers 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 X 1 8 0

Milwaukee Brewers

Player AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Corey Hart, RF 3 0 1 0 1 0 2 .273
Nyjer Morgan, CF 4 0 1 0 0 1 3 .320
Ryan Braun, LF 3 0 1 0 1 1 3 .323
Prince Fielder, 1B 3 0 1 0 1 0 2 .308
Casey McGehee, 3B 4 0 1 0 0 2 4 .238
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS 3 1 1 1 1 0 1 .270
Jerry Hairston, 2B 4 0 0 0 0 0 3 .255
Jonathan Lucroy, C 4 0 1 0 0 1 2 .284
Marco Estrada, P 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .300
a-Zack Greinke, PH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .194
b-Felipe Lopez, PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .215
Total 30 1 8 1 4 5 20

a-Hit a sacrifice bunt for Estrada in the 5th.

b-Grounded out for Hawkins in the 7th.

BATTING

2B: Estrada (1).

HR: Betancourt (9).

RBI: Betancourt (51).

Team RISP: 1-for-10.

Team LOB: 10.

BASERUNNING

SB: Braun (22).

Milwaukee Brewers

Player IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Marco Estrada (W, 3-7) 5.0 1 0 0 0 5 0 4.46
Takashi Saito (H, 7) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2.51
LaTroy Hawkins (H, 18) 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1.69
Francisco Rodriguez (H, 8) 1.0 1 0 0 0 2 0 2.89
John Axford (S, 34) 1.0 1 0 0 1 1 0 2.44

Pitches-strikes: Estrada 64-44, Saito 10-8, Hawkins 11-7, Rodriguez 14-12, Axford 21-13.

Groundouts-flyouts: Estrada 6-2, Saito 1-1, Hawkins 1-1, Rodriguez 0-1, Axford 2-0.

Batters faced: Estrada 16, Saito 3, Hawkins 3, Rodriguez 4, Axford 5.

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