After already having secured their first series victory of the season, the Pirates came into PNC Parker FF on Sunday looking to sweep NL Central Division rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers. For Pittsburgh it would be rookie right hander JT Brubaker taking the mound, searching for his first big league win. His counterpart for the Brew Crew, Corbin Burnes was making only his second start after beginning the year in the bullpen as a long reliever/swing man. Both young men had experienced some success in limited action thus far, but it has Burnes that has excelled more as starter; allowing just one earned run and striking out five batters in five innings of work. On the other hand, Brubaker has struggled in his starts; allowing three earned runs each time and only striking out three total in six innings.
The game was set to start at 1:35 PM EST, but unfortunately Mother Nature had others ideas as she delayed the start almost a full hour and a half with the first pitch of the game coming out of Brubaker’s hand at 3 o’clock; a 95 mph four seam fastball fouled off by Avisail Garcia. JT proceeded to make his way through the Brewers lineup for the first three innings, striking out 5 and not allowing a hit. In the top of the 4th Milwaukee finally got to Brubaker as he gave up back to backs by Keston Hiura and Justin Smoak to cut the lead to 2-1. It was much of the same in the 5th as another set of hits from the Brew Crew led to their second run and him being lifted from the game in favor of Geoff Hartlieb. Brubaker’s final line was 2 earned runs on 4 hits and 6 strike outs along with 1 free pass on 76 pitches in 4 innings of work.
The Pirates bats, which had heated up during the first two games of the series, remained hot in the beginning as Erik Gonzalez led off the bottom of the first with an opposite field double, immediately followed by run scoring single from Adam Frazier. In the bottom of the 2nd they kept the pressure on Burnes as Gregory Polanco singled, stole second, was moved over to third by a Jose Osuna ground out and ultimately scored on a Jarrod Dyson single to left field. Dyson then stole the Pirates second base of the inning, advancing to third on a catcher’s throwing error, but was stranded after arriving there with only one out.
For the next few innings Burnes kept the Pirates off the board in spite of a couple walks and some extended pitch counts, while Hartlieb gave up a 2 run home run to Smoak in the top of the 6th to put the Pirates behind 4-2. Then after giving up a leadoff double to JT Riddle and a ground out to begin the bottom of the 6th, Burnes was replaced by Freddy Peralta. Peralta subsequently allowed his inherited runner to score on a single from Bryan Reynolds, crediting Burnes with his 3 earned run of the game. The remainder of his line consisted of 7 strike outs, 2 walks and 5 hits on 87 pitches.
Over the next inning and a half the bullpens of both clubs kept the bats at bay, until the Pirates came into the box in the bottom of the 8th. Led by the surging Gregory Polanco on his second homer in as many days, the Pirates took the lead back 5-4; setting up Richard Rodriguez for his first save opportunity of the season. After striking out the first two Milwaukee batters, he induced a fly out by Garcia; securing the save, victory and sweep of the Brewers.
The Pirates were able to extend their winning streak to 3 games, but lost two of their players to injury in the process. Colin Moran was removed from the game to be evaluated for a concussion and Kevin Newman was forced to leave with right lower abdominal muscle discomfort. Hopefully, neither of these two injuries are too serious and they can return to play sooner rather than later. As for Pittsburgh the will get an off day tomorrow before taking on the Chicago White Sox for a quick two games series at Guaranteed Rate Field on the South Side. Game time is set for 8:10 PM EST.