Pirates 6, Brewers 3
PITTSBURGH (AP)—This is the Adam LaRoche the Pittsburgh Pirates expected when they traded with Atlanta to get him last winter. They can only wonder where they would be in the NL Central standings if they had this LaRoche all season.
LaRoche, who had been mired in a three-month slump, hit a two-run homer in the third off Sheets and a solo homer off reliever Carlos Villanueva in the seventh. LaRoche also doubled ahead of Xavier Nady’s RBI single in the fifth.
LaRoche has jumped his average from .164 on May 12 to .242. The first baseman is 16-for-32 with five doubles, five homers and 11 RBIs in his last eight games.
“This doesn’t happen all the time, and when it does you’ve got to ride it as long as you can,” LaRoche said.
Five of the Pirates’ eight hits off Sheets went for extra bases. The All-Star gave up five runs and eight hits in six innings and lost for the first time in seven decisions, striking out six and walking one. Sheets had been 9-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 11 starts since May 1.
“It was throwing marshmallows,” said Sheets, who didn’t blame a nearly 2 1/2 -hour rain delay for his performance. “There wasn’t anything on the ball. I threw marshmallows but, when they hit it, it didn’t sound like marshmallows. They were loud.”
Ryan Doumit’s homer, his sixth, put the Pirates up 1-0. They added three runs in the third when Nate McLouth walked ahead of LaRoche’s drive into the right field bleachers off a hanging curveball, and Nady doubled and came home on Jason Bay’s RBI single.
LaRoche, hitting third for the first time this season, went 7-for-15 with three homers, three doubles and six RBIs in the four-game series.
“It feels a lot better than it did two months ago,” LaRoche said. “I always knew it was coming but it’s nice to finally show that I should be here, and I like being the guy in the big spot. The guy who’s up there with two outs and a couple of guys on.”
Gorzelanny (9-4), making a final but unsuccessful pitch to be voted onto the NL All-Star team in fan balloting, gave up Geoff Jenkins’ two-run homer in the fourth. He allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings. The left-hander struck out five and walked two.
“You could tell early he didn’t have his best stuff, but he found a way to fight through it,” Doumit said. “He finally found it in the fifth or sixth inning.”
Matt Capps pitched the ninth for his ninth save in 10 opportunities.
It was a bad day all around for the Brewers, who also lost center fielder Bill Hall to a right ankle sprain when he climbed the wall trying to pull down Doumit’s solo homer leading off the second. The Brewers aren’t certain how long he will be out, but his high ankle sprain is the most severe form of the injury.
Hall planted his foot in the wall’s padding to boost his jump. He got so high up the wall, he wasn’t anticipating how long it would take to get down and he landed awkwardly.
“Everything was good except for the landing,” he said. “I wasn’t prepared to land. … Hopefully, I’m a quick healer.”
Jenkins replaced Hall and homered two innings later.
After winning five consecutive series, the NL Central-leading Brewers dropped their second straight by losing three of four in Pittsburgh. They lost two of three last weekend against the Cubs and have dropped five of seven overall. The Brewers are 19-40 in Pittsburgh since PNC Park opened in 2001, with 12 losses in their last 16 games.
“It’s tough, there’s no ands, ifs or buts about it,” Sheets said of playing in Pittsburgh. “It always has been. If we knew what it was, we’d change it.”
Despite beating a winning-record team in a series for the first time this season, the Pirates are 10 games behind in the division.
“We’ll see where this leads us,” manager Jim Tracy said. “There’s a lot of season left to play.”
The game started after a rain delay of nearly 2 1/2 hours. … Milwaukee’s Corey Hart ran his hitting streak to 21 games with a double in the fifth. He is 33-for-96 (.344) during the streak. … The Brewers have dropped three straight for the first time since June 6-9. … Milwaukee C Damian Miller, who had 11 RBIs in his last two starts, was 0-for-2. … Milwaukee has homered in 14 consecutive games. … Hall returned to Milwaukee to see doctors there rather than accompany the Brewers to Washington.