PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Milwaukee Brewers exchanged handshakes and congratulations as fireworks burst overhead, a rare late-season celebration for a team that hasn’t been in the postseason since 1982.
OK, so the fireworks were only a coincidence, a pre-planned promotion by the Pirates. But the Brewers finally have something to cheer about, even if it’s not a winning season quite yet.
Damian Miller and Geoff Jenkins hit two-run homers in the seventh inning and the Brewers, down by five runs while being held hitless for five innings by Oliver Perez, assured themselves of at least a .500 season by rallying to beat the Pirates 6-5 on Friday night.
The victory, the Brewers’ eighth in 11 games, gave them an 81-79 record and ended their streak of 12 consecutive losing seasons dating to a 92-70 finish while still in the AL in 1992.
“It’s an awesome, awesome feeling,” said Jenkins, who has been with Milwaukee since 1998, longer than any other player. “It’s not the playoffs or anything like that, but for us this is kind of our playoffs. It’s a great feeling and something to build on for next year.”
One victory in the final two games of the series assures that winning season, and it could come Saturday night against the Pirates’ Kip Wells (7-18), who leads the majors in losses. He is one loss away from becoming the first Pittsburgh starter with 19 losses since Jose DeLeon in 1985.
Manager Ned Yost said before the series began it was important for the Brewers to go into the offseason as winners.
“Eighty-one is nice, but we need to get to 82,” Yost said. “We’ve got two to do it. Eighty-one is great, and we’re through with our 12 years of losing, but we got a shot to get to 82-80 or even to 83-79.”
The Pirates (65-95), long since assured of a 13th consecutive losing season, will go alone into the 2006 season with the longest ongoing streak of losing seasons in major American pro sports. They are three losing seasons away from tying the Phillies’ 1933-48 major league record run of 16 consecutive losing seasons.
“We can look at them and how they came back and try to do it next year,” the Pirates’ Humberto Cota said of the Brewers.
The Brewers trailed 5-0 after two doubles by Cota off Doug Davis drove in three runs. They began their comeback when Carlos Lee singled off Perez leading off the sixth for their first hit. Perez, who allowed only that hit but walked seven and hit a batter in five-plus innings, left after walking the next three batters to force in a run.
“He was overpowering, and the only thing we had going was that his command was off,” Yost said.
Miller followed with a sacrifice fly off reliever Rick White, then gave the Brewers the lead an inning later with his two-run drive off Ryan Vogelsong (2-2)—but only after third baseman Rob Mackowiak’s error for misplaying Jeff Cirillo’s grounder kept the inning going. Lee had walked with one out and Jenkins followed with his 25th homer to get Milwaukee within a run.
Justin Lehr (1-1) pitched two scoreless innings for his second career win and first in the NL. After that, Julio Santana, Milwaukee’s third pitcher of the eighth, struck out Craig Wilson looking—the only batter he faced—to leave the bases loaded after Kane Davis walked two. Derrick Turnbow pitched the ninth for his 39th save.
Doug Davis lasted five innings, allowing seven hits and five runs—two earned—with third baseman Cirillo’s two-out error on Brad Eldred’s grounder in the first leading to Cota’s two-run double. Cota singled ahead of Freddy Sanchez’s RBI single in the fourth and had another RBI double in the fifth.
Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood watched from a private box. The Stones played a concert at PNC Park on Wednesday night, and the damage caused by their seven-story stage’s steel rigging required about 10,000 square feet of outfield grass to be replaced Friday afternoon. … The Pirates are 32-47 at home with 16 losses in the last 22 games. … Sanchez doubled in the first to run his hitting streak to 15 games, a team season high. … Milwaukee last came close to a winning season in 1996, going 80-82. … Pirates rookie OF Nate McLouth’s streak of homering in three consecutive games ended. … Perez has allowed three runs and six hits in 11 innings in his last two starts. In his first three starts following a two-month layoff with a broken toe, he yielded eight runs and 10 hits and walked nine in 8 2-3 innings. … The Brewers are 9-5 against Pittsburgh.