Brewers 7, Pirates 5

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PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Milwaukee Brewers got off to a great start following the three-day All-Star break. What was even more encouraging to them was their finish.

John Vander Wal’s third grand slam this season helped open a seven-run lead, and the Brewers overcame Craig Wilson’s pinch-hit slam to hold off the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-5 Thursday night.

All-Star Geoff Jenkins ended an 0-for-17 slump with a solo homer as the Brewers chased Kris Benson (5-9), who gave up six runs, five earned, in two innings.

Even with a 7-0 lead, Brewers starter Wayne Franklin (6-6) lasted only one out into the sixth, allowing Wilson’s team-record ninth career pinch-hit homer in the fifth.

But the Pirates twice ran themselves out of scoring chances against an inconsistent Brewers bullpen that was reshaped by manager Ned Yost during the break. Mike DeJean, Danny Kolb and Leo Estrella each pitched a scoreless inning, with Estrella getting his second save in three opportunities.

DeJean was moved out of the closer’s role, at least temporarily, after blowing his seventh save of the season Sunday against Cincinnati.

“The bullpen did an outstanding job, but it felt like we were hanging on at the end,” Yost said. “Nothing is set in stone with the bullpen … but I like what they did.”

There wasn’t much for the Pirates to like about their late-inning base running. They put the first two batters on in both the seventh and eighth, but failed to score. Brian Giles was caught at second on an attempted double steal as Aramis Ramirez struck out in the seventh, and Randall Simon was thrown out trying to move from first to third on Jack Wilson’s single to short right field in the eighth.

Last week, Simon got himself in trouble against the Brewers with his bat, whacking one of their sausage mascots. This time, it was his legs that were the problem.

“It was bad baserunning on my part,” Simon said. “I’m supposed to pick up the third base coach and I didn’t do it. It was a bad mistake and it might have cost us a big game.”

The Pirates were hoping Benson turned his season around after he allowed only three earned runs in 17 innings over his previous three starts, but he trailed 5-0 before retiring a batter.

“I didn’t throw strikes. I didn’t have any control over what I threw up there, and what I did (control) was right down the middle of the plate,” Benson said. “It’s frustrating after having a few good ones.”

Eric Young singled to start the game, Scott Podsednik walked and Jenkins was hit by a pitch. Third baseman Ramirez then threw wildly to the plate on Richie Sexson’s grounder, scoring Young and leaving the bases loaded. It was Ramirez’s 22nd error.

Vander Wal, a former Pirate, hit an 0-1 pitch over the center-field wall for his second grand slam since July 4. He is 5-for-8 (.625) with three homers with the bases loaded this season.

“Your main focus there is to try to make solid contact, and I was fortunate enough to hit it hard,” Vander Wal said. “There’s been plenty of times I’ve failed in that situation … but I’ve been making good contact (this season).”

Jenkins’ homer made it 6-0, and the Brewers added a run in the third against reliever Salomon Torres on Franklin’s two-out single, his first RBI of the season.

Wilson, who hit an NL record-tying seven pinch-hit homers as a rookie in 2001, got the Pirates back in the game with his second pinch-hit homer of this season in the fifth. Wilson needed fewer than three full seasons to break Willie Stargell’s 21-year-old club record of eight career pinch-hit homers.

The Pirates cut the Brewers’ lead to 7-5 an inning later on Reggie Sanders’ double and pinch-hitter Adam Hyzdu’s sacrifice fly. Pinch-hitters drove in all five of the Pirates’ runs.

Just over a week after Simon was fined and suspended for hitting one of the Brewers’ sausage racers, the Pirates ran their copycat pierogi race without incident.

The pretend race between four costume-wearing characters ended just short of the visiting dugout, as it always does. It was missing only the usual mugging and role-playing. Often, the Pirates parrot mascot decides the outcome by knocking over or tripping one of the runners.


The Pirates lost their third in four games and fifth in eight. … Benson has lost four of five decisions. … Pirates C Jason Kendall ran his career-high hitting streak to 19 games with a single in the seventh. … The Brewers, like the Pirates, are much better on the road (20-22) than at home(18-34). The Pirates are 19-27 at home and 22-24 on the road.

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