Pedro Alvarez homered into the Allegheny River, the bullpen pitched three shutout innings to close the game and the Pirates stayed perched atop all of baseball with their 50th win Saturday night after beating the Milwaukee Brewers, 2-1.
And it's not even July yet.
"Sellout crowds, we've been waiting for that," said closer Jason Grilli, who earned his 27th save with a 1-2-3 ninth to a roar from a fifth consecutive sellout at PNC Park. "We're playing for ourselves, but there was about 40,000 people tonight and the city we're playing for, also.
"It's just awesome to see everybody dusting off their Pirates shirts now and coming out in droves to get what they've been wanting for so long."
The win keeps the Pirates (50-30) in first place in the National League Central Division with the best record in baseball and stretches their winning streak to eight games.
Starter Francisco Liriano (7-3) had a solid outing on the mound, going six innings and giving up just one earned run on seven hits. He struck out six while earning the win.
His run support was limited -- but dazzling when it came.
Alvarez launched a fastball off Donovan Hand on a 1-2 pitch in the second that went 445 feet and landed in a tree before falling out and plunking into the river.
It was his 20th of the season and increased his career-long hitting streak to 12 games.
The Pirates threatened in the third when Starling Marte doubled to put two runners in scoring position.
But they didn't score again until Garrett Jones hit another solo home run off Hand into the shrubbery in straightaway center field to lead off the fourth.
"Two big swings of the bat, maybe one opportunity that got away," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We were able to play some defense. We made pitches when we needed to and the bullpen came in extremely efficient."
That bullpen didn't allow a hit -- Tony Watson in the seventh, Mark Melancon in the eighth and Grilli in the ninth.
"I can't say enough about our pitching staff, our bullpen, the guys on defense. And our offense has come alive, too," Grilli said. "We're doing whatever it takes to get a win under our belts."
The Brewers threatened in the fourth when Carlos Gomez tripled to the gap in left to open the inning.
Liriano struck out Aramis Ramirez and Neil Walker threw out Gomez at the plate to get out of the jam.
The Brewers got on the board in the sixth when Yuniesky Betancourt singled in Gomez, but Liriano got out of the inning on a fly ball to center by Sean Halton.
"Frankie, as efficient as he was with the numbers, he was challenged out there," Hurdle said. "Only six, seven sequences he threw back-to-back strikes. But when it came time to make pitches, he was able to make pitches, not let innings build. No better out than the one at the end when they'd nicked him for a run."
Liriano gave up a walk and a hit to open the game, conjuring images of Gerrit Cole's shaky start Friday.
But he ended the inning quickly by striking out Gomez and getting Ramirez to hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
Hand had a very efficient first, getting three outs on just nine pitches.
Marte flew out to center on two pitches. Russell Martin battled through five pitches before he singled to shallow right, but McCutchen hit into a double play to end the inning after seeing two pitches.
Hand went five innings, giving up two runs on five hits.
Grilli said the team is having fun with all the success and the excitement surrounding them and PNC Park.
"I'm not out there putting on a rock concert or nothing. I'd like to be. I just try to do my job," Grilli said. "You step out of yourself for a minute and you appreciate it. It's awesome. The fireworks going, everybody's pumped up. ... It's just awesome.
"We're just trying to make light of it all. That's why we're winning. We're having fun."
The crowd of 38,438 Saturday marked the first time PNC Park has had five consecutive sellouts.
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com, 412-263-1959 and Twitter @JennMenendez. First Published June 30, 2013 4:15 AM