Ninth-inning rally pulls Pirates over Brewers, 4-1

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MILWAUKEE — Clint Hurdle took a gamble, and the cards turned over exactly as he hoped.

A ninth-inning rally gave the Pirates a 4-1 win against the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday night at Miller Park and evened the series at one win apiece.

With the score tied, 1-1, in the ninth, Ike Davis and Jordy Mercer hit consecutive singles off Brewers closer Francisco Rodriguez, who was pitching for the fourth time in the past five days. Hurdle removed Davis, who lacks speed, and substituted Clint Barmes as a pinch-runner.

“I almost pushed the button earlier and put him in at first,” Hurdle said. “I’m thinking if Mercer squares one up and puts it in the gap, I don’t know if Ike’s going to score on that.”

Having already used Gaby Sanchez, Hurdle’s move meant Barmes, a middle infielder by trade, would play first in the bottom of the ninth.

After Hurdle’s move, Chris Stewart singled to center. Third-base coach Nick Leyva waved Barmes home. Elian Herrera’s throw was off-line and Barmes scored.

“I’m just trying to see [Rodriguez] well,” Stewart said. “I saw quite a few pitches [nine] from him [Tuesday] night, so I think that helped going into the at-bat [Wednesday night].”

Starling Marte, making his first appearance since leaving the game Saturday night because of tightness in his back, followed Stewart’s hit with a two-run double that extended the Pirates’ lead.

Hurdle noted that the Pirates’ second run in their 5-2 loss Tuesday night created a save situation and led to Brewers manager Ron Roenicke using Rodriguez, which likely worked in the Pirates’ favor Wednesday night.

Though Tony Watson earned the win in relief and Mark Melancon earned his fifth save, starter Francisco Liriano kept the Pirates in a tight game. Liriano held the Brewers to one run in six innings and struck out seven while only allowing four hits.

“You’re just trying to stay calm and make sure that you execute your pitches,” Liriano said.

This was his best outing since opening day, when he held the Chicago Cubs scoreless through six and struck out 10. He had good command of his slider and changeup from the first batter and kept his fastball down.

“We established that early on, that he had a real good feel for those pitches,” Stewart said of Liriano’s off-speed stuff, noting that the command of the slider and changeup allowed them to “mix in” the fastball against a lineup featuring seven right-handed position players and one switch-hitter.

Liriano left the game after 87 pitches. Bryan Morris started the seventh by walking Khris Davis on four pitches. A sacrifice bunt and a groundout moved Davis to third, bringing pinch-hitter Scooter Gennett to the plate.

The Pirates intentionally walked left-handed Gennett to face Herrera, who grounded out to end the inning.

“I had a feeling that if we could get [Liriano] clean through six, then that’s the way we were going to cut up the end of the game,” Hurdle said.

Brewers starter Wily Peralta matched Liriano, allowing a run on five hits in seven innings and continued his hot start this season.

The Pirates scratched out a run off Peralta in the fourth. Andrew McCutchen worked a leadoff walk and took third on Pedro Alvarez’s ground-ball single through the right side. Jose Tabata grounded into a forceout, scoring McCutchen,.

Liriano allowed one baserunner through the first three innings, but put multiple runners on in the fourth and fifth. A double play kept the Brewers scoreless in the fourth, but they tied the score in the fifth.

Khris Davis led off with a double. Jean Segura hit a grounder that Ike Davis bobbled. By the time Liriano, who got a late start off the mound when it looked as if Davis could make the play himself, got to first, it was too late, and the Brewers had runners on the corners with no outs. Jeff Bianchi hit a sacrifice fly to score Khris Davis and tie the score, 1-1.

Bill Brink: and Twitter @BrinkPG.

Bill Brink: and Twitter @BrinkPG.

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