Looking to win a career-best seventh consecutive start, Gallardo hopes to continue his recent dominance against the Pirates and help the Brewers complete the sweep with a sixth straight home victory Sunday.
Pittsburgh (70-62) is 1 1/2 games out of the second NL wild-card spot, but opened September on a sour note after going 11-17 in August. Following a 9-3 series-opening loss at Milwaukee on Friday, the Pirates fell 3-2 on Corey Hart 's homer to lead off the ninth Saturday. Pedro Alvarez his 27th home run, but Pittsburgh managed five other hits while dropping its third straight at Miller Park."We have plenty of opportunities," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Unfortunately, we've had some games like that this season."
Bouncing back won't be easy against Gallardo (14-8, 3.52 ERA), who is 6-0 with a 1.90 ERA and 44 strikeouts since losing to Washington on July 26. Gallardo allowed one run, three hits and fanned nine in seven innings of a 4-1 win at Chicago on Tuesday."I've been able to command my curveball. That makes a huge difference," said Gallardo, who also won six consecutive starts from May 7-June 4, 2011.
The right-hander has looked even more dominant while giving up three runs on two homers over 30 innings to win his last five starts against the Pirates. Gallardo gave up a home run to Andrew McCutchen and three other hits while fanning a season-high 14 in seven innings of a 4-1 victory July 15. He is 5-0 with a 1.88 ERA in seven home starts against Pittsburgh.
Though Milwaukee (64-68) is fourth in the NL Central and 7 1/2 games out of the final wild-card spot, it's averaged 6.3 runs while winning 10 of 12 overall. The Brewers have also won 13 of 15 at home."A lot of people counted us out a long time ago," said Hart, who has homered in each of the first two games of the set and is batting .414 (12 for 29) with three home runs and 11 RBIs in his last eight at Miller Park. "We think we have a pretty good club and we're making a nice little run."
Hart is 5 for 11 (.455) against scheduled Pittsburgh starter James McDonald (12-6, 3.57), who is 1-2 with a 6.86 ERA while making all four of his career starts against the Brewers in Milwaukee. He's 1-0 with a 4.22 ERA in two this season.
McDonald did not allow a run for the second time in three starts Tuesday, when he scattered two hits and struck out six in seven innings of a 9-0 victory over St. Louis.
"I got ahead of guys. But if the first pitch wasn't a strike, I fired the next one in there," McDonald told the Pirates' official website. "I'll try to carry that into the next start."
Alvarez is 14 for 26 (.538) with four homers and eight RBIs in his last seven games, but 0 for 8 with five strikeouts versus Gallardo.
|August 31, 2012||Jeff Karstens||Day-to-Day||Hip flexor|
|August 27, 2012||Neil Walker||Day-to-Day||Lower back stiffness|
|August 25, 2012||Jose Tabata||Day-to-Day||Left game - left groin discomfort|
|August 25, 2012||Chad Qualls||15-Day DL||Left toe sprain|
|August 19, 2012||Starling Marte||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
|August 15, 2012||Neil Walker||Day-to-Day||Dislocated finger|
|July 29, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|July 17, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Right thigh strain|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||60-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
|June 15, 2012||Shaun Marcum||60-Day DL||Right elbow tightness|
|June 02, 2012||Aramis Ramirez||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained left quadricep|
|May 31, 2012||Ryan Braun||Day-to-Day||Tight Achilles|
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A sweep of the wild card-contending Pittsburgh Pirates has given the Milwaukee Brewers hope that they, too, can get in the playoff chase.
Ryan Braun hit his NL-leading 37th home run, pitcher Yovani Gallardo also connected and the Brewers won 12-8 Sunday, sending the Pirates to their 10th loss in 13 games.
The Brewers tied a season high with five home runs. The outburst pulled Milwaukee within 6 1/2 games in the postseason race.
"There's a second wild card. You never know what can happen," Braun said. "You just continue to compete every day. Obviously we'd have to play great baseball for the rest of the year but by no means are we giving up. We realistically think that we are still in it."
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said he's been paying much more attention to the wild-card standings following his team's recent run of success, including three wins over Pittsburgh.
"I know we are looking ... a lot more than we were a couple of weeks ago," he said. "We're playing really good ball. It gets you excited about getting on a roll and seeing what happens."
Jeff Bianchi , Rickie Weeks and Carlos Gomez also connected for Milwaukee. The Brewers have won six in a row at home and 14 of their last 16 at Miller Park.
"One thing we've got to do, that I haven't seen done since I've been here, is we've got to eliminate some of their comfort at the plate," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "They've been pushing us around for years."
Garrett Jones , Michael McKenry and Gaby Sanchez homered for the Pirates.
"Every game right now is key," Sanchez said. "We've got to go out there and keep playing baseball, keep trying to have fun out there and continue pushing forward. All we can do is go out there and battle and give everything we've got."
Pirates starter James McDonald (12-7) was tagged for eight runs and six hits in 2 2-3 innings. He struck out six, but was tagged for four home runs.
"I actually felt good. The fastball command wasn't bad. They hit good pitches," McDonald said. "I'm not going to make any excuses for what happened. Bottom line is they put the bat on the ball and hit away."
Kameron Loe (5-4) picked up the victory in relief of Gallardo, who failed to complete the fifth inning.
John Axford closed out the game to earn his 23rd save. He came in with two runners on base and recorded three consecutive outs.
"We have hope," Loe said. "We'll take it."
The Pirates touched Gallardo for 11 hits and seven earned runs in 4 2-3 innings. He also walked while throwing a season-high 119 pitches.
"He was out of whack. He's thrown so well for so long. He just had a game where he wasn't on," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "The rhythm wasn't there. We tried to fight through it. We tried to get him through five. Unfortunately, we couldn't do it."
Gallardo entered the game with a major league-leading 22 quality starts. He had won each of his previous six starts, posting a 1.90 ERA during the stretch.
Gallardo said he was struggling with his command even before he took the mound.
"Even in the bullpen, I was battling to find my rhythm and consistency with my release point," he said. "It was a crazy game today but we were able to get the win. That's the important thing."
Braun hit a three-run homer in the first, a 458-foot drive. After McKenry hit a leadoff homer in the second, the Brewers scored three more in the bottom half.
Bianchi had his second homer and Weeks launched a 455-foot shot off the center-field scoreboard. Weeks finished with three hits and scored four times.
McKenry hit a two-run single in the third that pulled Pittsburgh to 6-4. Gomez hit a two-run homer in the bottom half and chased McDonald.
Gallardo homered in the fourth. It was his 10th career home run, extending his franchise record for a pitcher.
Jones hit his 23rd homer in the sixth.
NOTES: Norichika Aoki returned to leadoff spot in the Milwaukee lineup and played right field after not starting the previous two games because of a stiff neck. ... The Pirates have hit 16 home runs in nine games at Miller Park this season, the most by any visiting team. ... Brock Holt of the Pirates got his first major league start, playing second base and leading off. He recorded his first career hit when he singled in the fourth inning. He also singled in the fifth, driving in his first run. ... Jeff Locke is scheduled to start for the Pirates on Monday against Houston. He was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis, where he was 10-5 with a 2.48 ERA in 24 starts. Locke made two relief appearances earlier this season for the Pirates.