Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun tosses his bat after being struck out by A.J. Burnett end the third inning Friday in Milwaukee. The Brewers won, 2-1.
Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett gave up two runs in seven innings and struck out six Friday against the Brewers in Milwaukee.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
MILWAUKEE -- Marco Estrada and A.J. Burnett produced similar results Friday night. They each kept their pitch count low. The opposing lineup wounded them in one inning. They kept the game close for its entirety.
Estrada and his Milwaukee Brewers won the battle, defeating the Pirates, 2-1, at Miller Park and ending their four-game winning streak.
Estrada (4-2) allowed one run in seven innings and struck out eight. He did not walk a batter and 73 of his 100 pitches were strikes.
"He made pitches," said Neil Walker, who had two of the four hits Estrada allowed and drove in the Pirates' only run. "We didn't really give ourselves enough opportunities to capitalize."
Though Estrada is a right-hander, batters facing him this year have displayed reverse platoon splits. Left-handers have hit .174 with a .582 on-base plus slugging percentage against him, while right-handers hit .350 with a 1.013 OPS.
Accordingly, manager Clint Hurdle sat Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones, an unusual circumstance against right-handers, and started Brandon Inge and Gaby Sanchez in their places. The only left-handed hitter in the starting lineup Friday was right fielder Travis Snider.
Jones and Alvarez also had combined for six hits in 37 career at-bats against Estrada.
In 10 games, seven of them starts, against the Pirates in his career before Friday, Estrada had a 4-0 record and a 2.17 ERA. In his previous outing against the Pirates, May 13 at PNC Park, he allowed only one run on three hits in seven innings, defeating Burnett in the process.
"This is the same M.O. that we've seen," Hurdle said. "He's tough on us. We've seen the numbers. Those aren't the numbers we see from him, that's not the stuff we see from him."
Estrada retired the first 14 batters and struck out the side in order in the third. He needed 51 pitches to work through the first four innings. Estrada baffled the Pirates with a fastball that red-lined at 90 mph and a curveball and changeup in the high 70s.
Walker said the fastball appeared faster than the radar gun reading when juxtaposed with Estrada's off-speed pitches.
The fifth inning provided the perfect microcosm of Estrada's game. He struck out Gaby Sanchez swinging. Russell Martin thought a 3-2 off-speed pitch was low enough for ball four, but home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild thought otherwise. Martin tossed his bat in frustration.
Walker became the first Pirates batter to reach base against Estrada after a bloop single. Inge ripped a line drive back toward the mound, but Estrada reached across his body, opposite the direction his motion took him, and snared it for the final out.
For good measure, Estrada hit a two-out single in the fifth.
Starling Marte did the first true damage against Estrada when he lined a two-out triple into the left-field corner in the sixth. Estrada left him there by striking out Travis Snider, Estrada's eighth strikeout.
Walker drove home a run for the Pirates in the seventh. He doubled to the wall in right-center field and scored Martin, who reached on a fielder's choice.
"His best pitch is a changeup," Walker said. "I had three at-bats and didn't see a changeup."
Burnett (3-5) pitched seven innings for the fifth consecutive start, but the Pirates have lost the past four.
Two doubles in a 24-pitch second inning gave the Brewers an early lead. After Burnett walked Aramis Ramirez to start the inning, Carlos Gomez doubled to put runners on second and third with none away.
Martin Maldonado struck out swinging, but Alex Gonzalez hit a first-pitch knuckle-curve to the wall in left-center, scoring both runners.
"When you go up against a guy throwing up zeroes or throwing up no hits, it makes you go even more," Burnett said.
The second inning proved to be a blip for Burnett. He retired 17 of the final 19 batters he faced after Gonzalez's double and did not let a runner reach second.