The Pirates' Neil Walker and Starling Marte celebrate their win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
MILWAUKEE — Despite an eerie fog rolling in from Lake Michigan Friday night, Miller Park was no house of horrors for the Pirates.
The Pirates chased Yovani Gallardo after five innings and scored runs in the second, third, fourth, fifth and eighth innings on the way to a decisive, 8-3 win.
They made no errors, no base-running gaffes, and seized a game in the National League Central Division race to open a key stretch.
Josh Harrison led the way with a career-high five RBIs that included an RBI single, a two-run double and home run. Neil Walker ripped an RBI triple, and Andrew McCutchen pounded a Gallardo fastball 438 feet to center in the fifth for his 18th home run this season.
“It was a big show-up night for [Harrison.] Five RBIs with two outs. Those are game-changers,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Three hits, and all of them played. We were able to add some offense from some other different places … A good offensive night for us and a real big night for Josh. Fun to watch.”
The win gives the Pirates a 66-62 record and the Brewers dropped to 71-57.
Pirates starter Jeff Locke battled through six innings, giving up two earned runs on two hits and a season-high six walks. He also gave up a home run in the first.
Locke walked Jonathan Lucroy, the second Brewers batter, and paid dearly when Ryan Braun drove a 3-2 changeup over the left-field wall to make it 2-0.
Locke said the changeup was so elevated and outside, he was surprised and impressed with Braun’s decision and swing.
“It was such a non-competitive pitch,” Locke said. “So far outside and elevated, I thought, when it left my hand there was no way he was going to think twice about it. And he hit it over the fence.”
Gallardo struggled with his command in the second.
Russell Martin reached first on a throwing error by Aramis Ramirez, and Gallardo walked two consecutive batters to load the bases with no outs.
Jordy Mercer drove in a run with a sacrifice fly before Harrison cleared the bases with a double as the Pirates took a 3-2 lead on one hit, two walks and an error.
“We just took advantage of his mistake pitches. He had his back against the wall a little bit,” Harrison said. “We got runners on, and you want to capitalize any time you can against a guy who can throw any pitch for a strike. He left me a couple out over the plate, and I just put a good swing on it.”
McCutchen hit an infield single with one out in the third — his first hit since returning from the disabled list — then scored on Walker’s triple as the Pirates built a 4-2 lead.
The Pirates tacked on a fifth run in the fourth with Harrison’s RBI single, then McCutchen hit his homer to widen the lead to 6-2.
Harrison homered for the 11th time this season in the eighth to make it 8-2.
Milwaukee, which committed three errors, rallied to score a run on three singles off former Brewers reliever John Axford in the eighth but stranded two runners.
Justin Wilson walked two batters in the ninth, but got out of the inning with a flyout and grounder to short.
Locke put the Brewers down in order in the second and third, but dealt with baserunners every other inning, but managed to weave his way out of several jams.
“It was a lot like last year’s first half,” Locke said. “So many games we had four-plus walks … I never really got in that rhythm [Friday]. Every inning felt like the first inning of the game. It was tough for me to get in a rhythm and start pounding the ball down.”
He gave up back-to-back walks in the sixth but got out of the inning with a forceout at third from Mercer to Harrison.
The play was reviewed when the Brewers challenged if Harrison beat Ramirez to the bag. The ruling stood.
“I was just hoping it went our way. It’s one of those things, you have respect for first basemen. They know where the bag is,” Harrison said. “I caught it and thought I stepped on the bag [but] stepped on dirt and I knew I had to be quick.”
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @JennMenendez
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