MILWAUKEE – The Brewers hammered Vance Worley for 12 hits in a 4-3 win Sunday, blocking the Pirates' chance of a first series sweep at Miller Park since 2004.
Worley gave up two runs in both the first and second innings, then settled in, but the Pirates never came up with the kind of offense needed to pull off a dramatic series sweep.
After clobbering 23 hits Friday and Saturday, the Pirates mustered only four Sunday, and just two off Brewers starter Mike Fiers, who went seven efficient innings.
"You don't have to throw hard. It's kind of like real estate. It's all about location," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Downhill angle, No. 1 weapon that he's got. With that size, he gets on top of the ball with downhill angle. He worked the ball extremely well to the arm side to the right-handed hitters, then used the curveball on and off. Mixed his pitches extremely well ...stayed out of the middle of the plate."
Starling Marte hit a two-run home run off Fiers in the second, tying the score at 2-2, but the Brewers regained the lead in the bottom of the inning, scoring two runs off four hits to go ahead, 4-2.
Andrew McCutchen battled closer Francisco Rodriguez in the ninth, hitting a home run on a full count to end a 10-pitch at-bat that cut the gap to 4-3.
He said he's feeling "good enough" a week into his return from the disabled list.
"Definitely not 100 percent, but good enough to hit a home run in the ninth off their closer," McCutchen said.
Russell Martin then drew a two-out walk, but the rally ended there as Rodriguez struck out Pedro Alvarez for the save.
Historically, the Pirates have not played their best at Miller Park. So to leave the weekend with a series win was critical to stay alive in the National League Central race.
The Pirates sit five games back from the division-leading Brewers and 1½ games back in the race for the second wild card.
"We're doing a good job playing against a first-place team and to be able to get two out of three at their place is really good," McCutchen said. "You know the record isn't always that great against them. It's good we're able to come up here and play three good games and take two of three."
Worley was nearly out of the first inning cleanly when Ryan Braun hit a comebacker to the mound with two outs.
Worley got a piece of the ball, but it deflected behind him and his throw to first was not quick enough.
"It just hit off the end of my glove. I didn't know where it was at. By the time I got to it, he's real fast," Worley said.
The Brewers scored two runs on four consecutive singles before Worley struck out Gerardo Parra to end the inning.
Worley went 61/3 innings, giving up 12 hits and four earned runs. He walked one and struck out five.
"Offspeed was up early. The first two innings is basically what beat me," Worley said. "After that, I made some adjustments out there, got the ball back in the zone and kept us in the game."
Fiers went seven innings and held the Pirates to two hits and two earned runs. He walked just one and struck out seven.
"He was using his pitches, taking advantage of the strike zone and getting outs when he needed to," McCutchen said. "Hopefully we get to face him again next time we face them at home."
The Pirates return home for a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals starting tonight, then host the Cincinnati Reds.
"We played much better baseball throughout the weekend. A lot of things we highlighted coming in that we needed to improve upon, we did," Hurdle said.
McCutchen added: "We're right where we need to be. We're doing a good job all around. Pitchers are keeping us in the ballgame, giving us a chance to score runs and be able to win."
Jenn Menendez firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez First Published August 24, 2014 5:02 PM