MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun came to the plate three times Sunday afternoon with multiple Milwaukee Brewers on base and two outs.
Twice, in the third and seventh inning, the Pirates sent Braun and the Brewers back to the dugout. The Pirates offense ensured that the damage Braun did in the fifth wasn't enough.
The Pirates defeated the Brewers, 5-4, Sunday at Miller Park to win the three-game series and their 13th of the past 16 games.
Sunday was not the cleanest the Pirates have played, but because of their offense, it didn't matter. Jordy Mercer went 3 for 4 and Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Michael McKenry each had two hits.
"When somebody gets the ball rolling, everybody wants to be a part of it," Mercer said. "Key hits, clutch key hits by a lot of people. It was fun today."
The Pirates bullpen allowed one run in four innings of relief of starter Wandy Rodriguez (6-2). Jason Grilli earned his 20th save and needed only nine pitches to do so.
"I think you saw a completely different Grilli today than the guy you saw who closed the last game at home for us as far as the stuff that he brought out there today," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Braun got his first chance in the third, by which time the Pirates had built a 4-0 lead against Yovani Gallardo, when Gallardo singled. Norichika Aoki grounded to third and Pedro Alvarez, trying to start a double play, threw the ball into right field. A force-out put runners on first and third for Braun, but Rodriguez struck him out swinging.
Braun got revenge in the fifth. Three singles loaded the bases with two outs. On the third single, an infield hit by Jean Segura, Neil Walker broke toward second base initially, then had to reverse course to dive for the ball. His throw was late and Segura was safe.
"He thought the ball was going that way, and then obviously it didn't," Hurdle said. "The two steps he took to his right took him out of the play and unable to make the play on a ball that, actually, he was right squared up on."
Braun entered the game 17 for 44 with seven doubles and four home runs against Rodriguez in his career. Rodriguez fell behind Braun in the count, 2-0. Braun hit the third pitch for a three-run double down the left-field line, cutting the Pirates' lead to 4-3.
Starling Marte's sacrifice fly in the sixth added some cushion, giving the Pirates a 5-3 lead.
Braun had another shot in the seventh after singles from Martin Maldonado and Segura put runners on first and third with two outs. Segura took off for second on the first pitch from Vin Mazzaro, drawing Walker toward second base. Braun grounded up the middle and likely would have driven home a run, but the ball hit the mound. It slowed and bounced high, allowing Walker to snag it and throw Braun out at first.
"I wanted to go in off the plate on him, just in case he did take a first swing at it," Mazzaro said.
Jeff Bianchi's ground ball down the right-field line in the eighth off Mark Melancon took an odd hop off the wall and died, allowing Bianchi to reach third. He scored on Carlos Gomez's sacrifice fly to cut the Pirates' lead to one.
Mercer's triple in the second inning scored McKenry to give the Pirates an early lead.
Seven Pirates batters added three more runs in the third. Marte led off with a double. McCutchen reached on a fielder's choice to put men on first and third. Garrett Jones' sacrifice fly scored Marte from third.
Gaby Sanchez walked on four pitches before Pedro Alvarez doubled down the right-field line, scoring two runs and giving the Pirates a 4-0 lead.
Gallardo (3-5) left after four innings and 94 pitches. He allowed four runs on five hits.
Rodriguez continued his streak of holding his opponent to three or fewer runs to five games. He allowed seven hits in five innings and struck out four without walking a batter. He has won each of his past four starts.
"Any time you can come here and win a series, it's a great team win," Mercer said. "It's hard to do here."
Bill Brink:firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published May 26, 2013 9:45 PM