Nothing but blanks at Miller Park
Brandon Moss argues a called third strike -- one of 11 strikeout victims for Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo.
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MILWAUKEE -- So this is how the Brewers maintained their recent mastery over the Pirates, yesterday recording their 18th consecutive victory inside Miller Park and 15th anywhere: with help, with hate.
They got a 1-0 triumph from a pitcher one inning shy of his first career, complete-game shutout -- Carlos Villanueva picked up the save -- thanks to an assist from the home plate umpire, or, at least, that was the view from the visitors' side.
They got a dose of self-inflated drama, with Ryan Braun's anger over getting plunked in the back Monday night and Milwaukee starter Dave Bush grazing three Pirates with pitches the next night.
- Game: Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (3-1, 2.43) vs. RHP Bronson Arroyo (3-1, 6.48).
And, most interesting, they got next (almost): Milwaukee comes to PNC Park for a Monday and Tuesday set that many Pirates, though their focus is on Cincinnati this weekend, already were mentioning.
"They got our number, that's all I can tell you," said Pirates starter Ian Snell, who threw a career-high 131 pitches. "They're a good team. People are overlooking them."
Umpire Marty Foster apparently wasn't, so thought many of the Pirates. Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo, without a shutout in his previous 25 big league starts, pitched a perfect game through 42/3 innings, a one-hitter through seven and notched a career-best 11 strikeouts. Of his four full counts, two ended with Foster calling strike three. On one, Ramon Vazquez flipped his bat to the dugout, thinking he had been walked.
"Go talk to the home plate umpire," Adam LaRoche said. "He seemed to like him. Old Marty back there."
"When you're hitting your spots, you're going to get balls [called] off the plate," added Andy LaRoche.
For the Pirates, that further charged an atmosphere Braun already ignited with comments about Jeff Karstens being ordered to hit him with a pitch Monday, about how he expected retribution.
"I know he doesn't mean anything by it. [But] it's baseball, you shouldn't say stuff like that," Snell said. "Be professional about it. ... Don't go [speak] out in the paper. I've been there myself. It's not good, because karma comes right back and bites you right back in the butt."
Snell surpassed 114 pitches only once before in his six-year career, with 120 Aug. 19, 2007, against Philadelphia. Nobody in the majors had thrown 130 thus far this year.
"I was just thankful that JR didn't take me out, because I wanted to go as long as I [could]," he said.
Manager John Russell added: "Ian, his pitch count got up, and he still continued to battle. He was competing very well. More than very well, he was competing tremendously. To shut that lineup down, especially the way they've been swinging the bat, is a really good job.
"He tacked on a few more pitches than we normally would go, but we wanted to give him every opportunity to win the game."
The one run came from Gallardo the pitcher. His seventh-inning homer off a flat, Snell slider meant that two of his four career home runs were against the Pirates.
"Storybook ending for him," Russell said. "Gets their only run."
"I don't know how many times we've been walked off here, [lost] close games ... we just don't get it done, for whatever reason," Adam LaRoche said. "But we can't let these last three games here change how we've played. Good time for an off day [today]. Forget about it."
Thus, April closes with the Pirates' best record (11-10) in seven years, since going 14-10 to open 2002.
"We played good baseball," Russell said. "You lose your 3- and 4-hole hitters [Ryan Doumit and Nate McLouth], you lose your starting shortstop [Jack Wilson] and a guy in your bullpen [Craig Hansen], and you continue to play well, that says a lot. These [Brewers] were hot, and we played them really tough. There's no reason to hang our heads for three games."
But 18 in Miller Park? Fifteen anywhere? Plenty more meetings are coming, starting Monday, when the Brewers are set to start Gallardo.
"I look forward to facing him when they come to our place," Andy LaRoche said. "Hopefully, we can pay them back."
First Published April 30, 2009 12:00 am