Travis Snider had not hit a home run in his first 104 plate appearances this season. His first of the year proved to be a memorable one.
The first pitch of plate appearance No. 105 ended up in the Allegheny River, a symbol of the damage the Pirates offense did in a 7-1 win Thursday night against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park.
"It's really for me not how far it goes, it's getting it over the fence," said Snider, who went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. "It's been a struggle for about nine months now."
The Pirates won the final three games of the four-game series against the Brewers, a team that took 11 of 15 against them in 2012.
The Pirates have won four of their past five games against the Brewers, six of their past seven games overall, and won the final three games of a series after losing the first one for the second series in a row.
Pirates vs. Astros.
- Probable pitchers:
RHP Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.28) vs. RHP Jordan Lyles (1-1, 8.36).
Roughly one quarter of the season has passed. The Pirates' performance against the Brewers helped their chase of the first-place St. Louis Cardinals, who owned a three-game winning streak before losing Thursday, and the Cincinnati Reds, who have won six in a row.
Francisco Liriano pitched well while the game was still close. In 52/3 innings, Liriano allowed a run on six hits and three walks. He struck out seven.
Liriano mixed a fastball that touched 94 mph with the excellent slider he has used throughout his career. It ranged from 85 to 88 mph against the Brewers. He struck out six over the first four innings and worked around baserunners in three of those innings.
The Pirates broke a tie and took a 3-1 lead in the fifth.
Starling Marte bunted down the third-base line to lead off . Yuniesky Betancourt reached it and made a nice barehand throw, but Alex Gonzalez dropped it.
The play was ruled a single.
Brewers starter Hiram Burgos already had allowed steals to Snider and Pedro Alvarez and now had Marte, a much more potent threat, on his hands. He threw over to first base twice.
"There's always a chance that part of their mind's over at first base," manager Clint Hurdle said.
When Burgos made his first pitch to Snider, he left a fastball in the middle of the plate that Snider destroyed. It traveled an estimated 458 feet, cleared the stands in center field, bounced off the sidewalk and rolled into the river.
"I've seen Pedro do it and set the bar pretty high," Snider said.
Left-hander Justin Wilson choked off the Brewers' chance to begin a comeback in the sixth.
Liriano walked Betancourt and Rickie Weeks reached first on Clint Barmes' error. Betancourt took third on a long flyball by Gonzalez, bringing pinch-hitter Aramis Ramirez to the plate with two outs and runners on the corners.
Hurdle brought in Wilson, who forced Ramirez to fly out.
"He's got the lowest batting average against right-handed hitters out of our bullpen," Hurdle said.
"It's a power arm, he can get the ball [inside]."
The Pirates extended their lead against Alfredo Figaro in the sixth. Barmes was safe at first after a throwing error.
Then, Marte's double off the wall in right began a streak of five consecutive hits, four of them run-scoring singles, and suddenly the Pirates held a 7-1 lead.
"It was good to see us continue to score, get the game in a comfortable place," Hurdle said.
Liriano had struggled at the outset.
He yielded a walk, two hits and a hard-hit out in the first but only one run.
Norichika Aoki walked, but Russell Martin threw him out trying to steal second. Martin couldn't manage a throw when Jean Segura stole second after a single, and Jonathan Lucroy's single scored Segura to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead.
The Pirates took advantage of Burgos and Lucroy on the bases. Snider and Alvarez, not exactly the fleetest of foot, stole bases, and Alvarez's steal paid off.
He took second after a two-out walk in the fourth. Barmes hit a fly to left. Ryan Braun, in slow pursuit, watched it hit the base of the wall. Alvarez scored to tie the score, 1-1.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published May 17, 2013 2:30 AM