The Pittsburgh Pirates lineup just received an unexpected boost.
"It's pretty neat to see us make a move like this," second baseman Neil Walker said. "We didn't expect something to happen this late. You usually figure it is something that would happen at the (July 31 non-waiver) trade deadline.
"But these are established guys who can help us get to where we want to go."
Pittsburgh (76-55), 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis for the NL Central lead, acquired Byrd and Buck from the New York Mets on Tuesday for minor league infielder Dilson Herrera and a player to be named later.
The acquisition of Byrd helps fill a void left by Tuesday's news that left fielder Starling Marte will be out for another couple of weeks with a right hand injury.
Byrd has a career-high 21 home runs along with 71 RBIs, and he'll be relied upon to provide power for a team which is among the worst in baseball with 25 home runs against left-handed pitching. Besides being one of the NL leaders with seven homers versus southpaws, Byrd tops the majors since June 28 with a .455 average against left-handers.
"We don't expect him to be a savior, but to be better in (right field) than what we've had so far," general manager Neal Huntington told the team's official website.
Though Byrd may play left field while Marte is out, he could eventually shift across the diamond considering regular right fielder Jose Tabata is batting .269 with four homers.
Buck also can provide some pop, having hit 15 homers and driven in 60 runs this year, but he's expected to back up catcher Russell Martin . Martin, though, has hit .111 without a homer in his last 10 games.
The Pirates did record their most hits since the All-Star break with 15 on Tuesday, but they lost 7-6 to the Brewers (58-73) to open this three-game set.
"It's a good win for us," said Ramirez, who hit his 350th career home run. "We're not going to the playoffs, but it's fun to play teams that are going to the playoffs. This felt like a playoff game."
Pittsburgh scheduled starter Charlie Morton (5-3, 3.42 ERA) has been looking playoff-ready, going 2-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his last four outings. He needed just 83 pitches Friday to go 7 2-3 innings, allowing one run as he beat San Francisco in a 3-1 victory.
Morton, whose 80.1 ground ball percentage would lead the majors if he had enough innings to qualify, has not yielded a home run in his last 38 2-3 innings.
The right-hander, though, is 0-4 with a 6.25 ERA against the Brewers.
Counterpart Tom Gorzelanny (3-5, 3.60) has had no such trouble with his opponent, going 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in nine games versus Pittsburgh, but he's been struggling.
The former reliever has been tagged for 12 runs and 16 hits in 8 1-3 innings over his last two starts. He's 2-4 with a 4.81 ERA in eight outings since joining Milwaukee's rotation.
Buck has homered twice off Gorzelanny in eight at-bats and Byrd is 3 for 9 against him.
|August 15, 2013||Carlos Gomez||Day-to-Day||Sprained right knee|
|August 08, 2013||Rickie Weeks||15-Day DL||Left hamstring surgery - out for season|
|August 02, 2013||Tom Gorzelanny||Day-to-Day||Left elbow contusion|
|July 31, 2013||Yovani Gallardo||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|July 31, 2013||Yovani Gallardo||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|July 27, 2013||Jean Segura||Day-to-Day||Right forearm tightness|
|August 27, 2013||Kyle McPherson||60-Day DL||Recovery from right elbow surgery|
|August 19, 2013||Starling Marte||15-Day DL||Right hand contusion|
|August 19, 2013||Starling Marte||Day-to-Day||Right hand contusion|
|August 11, 2013||Starling Marte||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hand|
|July 28, 2013||Travis Snider||15-Day DL||Left big toe discomfort|
|July 28, 2013||Michael McKenry||60-Day DL||Left knee surgery - out for season|
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Marlon Byrd likens joining a new team to the first day of school.
It took the well-traveled outfielder all of four at-bats to become one of the cool kids on the Pittsburgh Pirates .
Byrd celebrated his arrival to the NL Central pennant race with a three-run home run, an epic strikeout, two standing ovations and a curtain call in Pittsburgh's 7-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night.
Quite an entrance for a player who 24 hours earlier was playing for the New York Mets .
Thrust abruptly into the middle of a pennant race, Byrd provided the kind of immediate jolt the Pirates were looking for when they traded for the former All-Star along with backup catcher John Buck on Tuesday.
"You want to feel accepted," Byrd said. "I felt accepted all day long."
Smile plastered on his face from the moment he was introduced as the cleanup hitter, Byrd made an immediate impression, lining into a double play in his first at-bat. He followed that up with a 14-pitch duel against Milwaukee's Tom Gorzelanny (3-6), a showdown that ended with Byrd flailing at strike three before being serenaded with a roar on his way back to the dugout.
"That was amazing," Byrd said. "I was upset with myself that I didn't finish the at-bat but to hear the fans cheering, that was a beautiful thing."
No matter. Byrd repaid the favor and then some in the seventh, drilling a fastball from Milwaukee reliever Burke Badenhop into the bushes in center field for his 22nd home run of the season. The 35-year-old sprinted around the bases and was so lost in the moment he needed Pittsburgh ace A.J. Burnett to tell him to head back to the top step so he could tip his cap.
"Coming in I was so excited," Byrd said. "It was `Hey, get back out there."'
Byrd's flair for the dramatic completed a night Pittsburgh (77-55) moved within five victories of the franchise's first winning season in a generation.
Josh Harrison went 3 for 4 with an RBI for the Pirates and Andrew McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez added two hits apiece. Charlie Morton (6-3) scattered five hits over 6 2-3 innings, walking three and striking out two to pick up his first career victory over the Brewers.
Not that Morton noticed. The right-hander called his futility against Milwaukee "needless information" because it has little bearing on the future.
"I think it's something people like to talk about because there's been some consistency in that regard but really what the team is doing really well is not thinking about yesterday or two weeks ago, it's the game today," Morton said. "If it's the Brewers, it's the Brewers, so be it. This is a different year anyway."
Gorzelanny yielded four runs on nine hits in 5 1-3 innings, walking one and striking out five. Carlos Gomez had two of Milwaukee's seven hits but the Brewers offered little resistance against Morton's steady dose of sinkers.
"Offensively, we hit a few balls that could have got something going but on the whole we just didn't do too much," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
The Pirates did plenty, with their new slugger providing the finishing touch. Gorzelanny, who spent five seasons with the Pirates from 2005-09, can see Byrd's presence having a positive influence in the clubhouse.
"He's a good piece that they got," Gorzelanny said. "He's a smart player. He plays the game the right way, he plays it hard. Having a ballplayer like this, who is always a tough out, is going to make their lineup better."
The homer was more celebratory than critical after Morton handcuffed the Brewers to end years of futility against Pittsburgh's biggest nemesis. Milwaukee has won more than 70 percent of its games against Pittsburgh since 2007 and came in 4-0 against Morton.
That run of dominance is now over. Morton, still finding his way back from Tommy John surgery, dominated after some early trouble. The Brewers put four runners on base in the first inning but couldn't score and Morton took care of matters from there. He retired nine straight at one point and would have worked deeper if not for a rare mental mistake by catcher Russell Martin .
Leading by four in the seventh, Martin tried to pick Yuniesky Betancourt off first. The ball sailed into right field, allowing Scooter Gennett to score.
Byrd's long ball restored order and the Pirates exhaled while clinching the season series against the Brewers for the first time since 2006.
NOTES: Pirates LHP Wandy Rodriguez continues to deal with left forearm inflammation but will not require surgery. Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list since May, was evaluated by Dr. James Andrews in Florida on Tuesday after experiencing discomfort during a throwing session. Rodriguez will resume throwing later this week ... Brewers prospect Johnny Hellweg was named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year. Hellweg is 11-5 with a 3.16 ERA for Triple-A Nashville. The right-hander, who is 0-3 with a 10.97 in three starts with Milwaukee this season, will be recalled to the majors next month ... The series concludes on Thursday when Pittsburgh's Gerrit Cole 6-6, 3.81 ERA) faces Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo (9-9, 4.61).