MILWAUKEE -- Corey Hart hit a walk-off home run off Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan as the Brewers beat the Pirates, 3-2, Saturday night at Miller Park.
Hanrahan left an 88-mph slider over the middle of the plate, and Hart crushed it over the wall in left-centerfield to break a 2-2 tie in the ninth inning. It was Hart's third career walk-off home run and 26th home run of the season.
Hart was the first batter Hanrahan faced, and the home run ball was the second pitch he saw. It was Hanrahan's first loss of the season.
With the loss, the Pirates (70-62) drop one-and-a-half games back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second and final wild-card playoff spot in the National League. The Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
The Pirates missed a chance to take a lead in the ninth inning, when John Axford allowed a two-out single and walked a pair of batters to load the bases. But Axford got Alex Presley to strike out looking to end the inning.
Pirates starter A.J. Burnett held the Brewers hitless until the sixth inning and struck out nine batters in his best start in almost a month. He pitched 6 2/3 innings and allowed two hits, the second an RBI double to Carlos Gomez that gave the Brewers a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning.
That pitch to Gomez was his 102nd and last of the night.
He struck out nine batters, buoyed by a sharp breaking ball. But his command was not at its best -- he walked four batters and threw a wild pitch.
Rickie Weeks broke up Burnett's no-hit attempt -- one of several for the veteran starter this season -- with a two-out bloop single in the sixth inning. But it seemed unlikely Burnett would have been able to last a complete game, even with a no-hitter intact.
Weeks' single came on Burnett's 87th pitch of the night.
Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada struck out 10 batters and allowed one earned run on four hits in seven innings. He had good command, throwing 76 strikes out of 104 pitches.
Sparked by some new blood, the Pirates tied the score, 2-2, in the eighth inning. Brock Holt, making his major league debut after being called up Saturday afternoon, drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt.
He scored two batters later when Andrew McCutchen muscled a broken-bat blooper that sailed over the glove of Milwaukee second baseman Weeks and landed in shallow right field.
The Pirates had a chance to take a lead in the sixth inning, loading the bases for Pedro Alvarez, who has crushed the ball in his career with the bases loaded.
Presley sliced a one-out double down the left-field line, and Travis Snider followed with a walk. McCutchen struck out, but Garrett Jones reached on an infield single to load the bases for Alvarez, who homered earlier in the game, with two outs.
Alvarez battled with Estrada, fouling off seven pitches before being called out on strikes on the 11th pitch of the at-bat -- an 80-mph curveball. Alvarez argued the call with home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson as the Brewers headed for the dugout.
Gomez tied the score in the third inning in unorthodox fashion. He walked to lead off the inning and, continuing a theme that started Friday night with the Brewers, stole second and third base.
He scored on a wild pitch, meaning he made it all the way around the bases without any Milwaukee batter putting the ball in play.
The Brewers had four stolen bases Friday and had four more Saturday.
Alvarez broke a scoreless tie in the second inning when he hit his team-leading 27th home run of the season, an opposite-field solo shot that he parked into the Brewers' bullpen in left-centerfield.
Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy set up on the inside of the plate for a 1-2 curveball from Estrada, and Estrada didn't miss the mark by much. The ball was low in the zone and traveled a little bit over the plate.
It was a good pitch. Alvarez made a better swing.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino. First Published September 2, 2012 2:30 AM