Byrd's homer helps Pirates beat Brewers, 7-1


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Apparently, a Byrd in the batter's box is worth three in the bushes.

Marlon Byrd hit a three-run homer into the center-field shrubbery in his Pirates debut Wednesday night, helping his new team beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-1, at PNC Park.

"A new stadium, new fans, new everything -- it's like the first day of school in a new school," Byrd said.

"You want to feel accepted."

The home run, he said, quickly helped him make a lot of friends with the "popular crowd."

The power-hitting right-fielder the Pirates acquired Tuesday afternoon had a warm welcome in his new city, even earning a healthy applause after striking out in the fourth inning -- a true sign he's not in New York anymore.

But his seventh-inning homer put an exclamation mark on his welcome party and gave him his first curtain call.

Byrd's 22nd homer of the season doubled the Pirates' lead and helped them snap a three-game losing streak.

The Pirates (77-55) are five victories away from securing their first winning season in the past 21 years.

Byrd's high-flying debut stole the spotlight from Charlie Morton, who continued to prove he has been the Pirates' most consistent starter since the All-Star break.

"You see confidence," manager Clint Hurdle said. "You see really good rhythm and tempo on the mound. The complete arsenal of pitches has been in play."

Morton turned in another strong outing, allowing one unearned run on five hits in 62/3 innings.

Other pitchers have turned in more dominant outings since the All-Star break, but Morton has been the most reliable. He is 5-1 with a 3.11 ERA in the second half, allowing three earned runs or less in all but one of his eight starts.

"I think I'm getting a better feel of the zone, for pitching again," said Morton, who missed most of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. "I'm just getting more comfortable."

The Brewers (58-74) scored their lone run in the seventh inning, when catcher Russell Martin's errant throw to first while trying to pick off Yuniesky Betancourt, allowed Scooter Gennett to score and cut the Pirates' lead to 4-1.

Morton allowed more than one base-runner twice and retired 15 of 17 batters between the first and sixth innings as his offense built a four-run lead.

Jose Tabata's leadoff triple sparked a two-run rally in the fifth that let the Pirates get some breathing room.

Tabata hit a towering fly ball off the Clemente Wall in right field and slid into third ahead of the relay.

He scored two batters later when Josh Harrison singled. Jordy Mercer drove in Harrison with a double to the warning track in right to put the Pirates ahead, 4-0.

Milwaukee starter Tom Gorzelanny didn't last much longer, pulled from the game after giving up two hits with one out in the sixth.

This former Pirates pitcher allowed four earned runs on nine hits in 51/3 innings for his sixth loss this season. He struck out five and walked one.

Gorzelanny threw 99 pitches and used 14 of them -- with six pick-off attempts sprinkled in -- getting Byrd to strike out in the fourth.

"Watching Gorzelanny and watching Byrd, it was like two kids in the backyard playing whiffleball," Hurdle said.

After fouling off pitch after pitch, Byrd was cheered for his effort as he walked back to the dugout.

"You want to feel accepted," Byrd said, "and I felt accepted all day long."

The Pirates added to their lead later in the inning when Gaby Sanchez slapped a ground-ball single through the right side of the infield, scoring Andrew McCutchen from third to make it 2-0.

They didn't wait long to take an early lead on Gorzelanny. But a nifty defensive play by the pitcher robbed the Pirates of even more runs in the first.

After McCutchen singled to score Harrison from second, Byrd stepped to the plate for his first at-bat as a Pirate and ripped a line drive toward the center of the infield. Gorzelanny somehow caught the ball as he stumbled off the mound, then turned to throw out McCutchen at first for a double play.

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published August 29, 2013 2:15 AM


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