MILWAUKEE (AP)—The Brewers sacrificed one of their most productive hitters in the past month for one mired in a deep slump. It paid off.
Prince Fielder singled in Rickie Weeks with one out in the bottom of the ninth after J.J. Hardy ended his 16-game hitting streak with a sacrifice bunt and Milwaukee beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 on Saturday night for their second straight win.
“‘P’ thrives on those situations, game-winners,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “There was no doubt in my mind that he wasn’t going to find a way to get a hit somewhere.”
Pirates reliever Tyler Yates (3-2) was in trouble from the start after walking Weeks from an 0-2 count to lead off the inning. Hardy, who had hit .448 during the previous 16 games, then sacrificed a chance to extend his streak and finished 0-for-3.
“You’ve got to do whatever you need to do for the team, that comes first. Really, to be honest, I’m kind of happy it’s over because it’s just kind of stressful going through stuff like that,” Hardy said.
Said Yost: “I had no idea about the hitting streak. I can’t even tell you how long it’s been, but I debated long and hard because J.J.’s been very, very hot.”
Yates then intentionally walked Ryan Braun to bring up Fielder, who had managed just five hits in his previous 44 at-bats. The Pirates also decided to keep the righty Yates on to face Fielder instead of bringing in a lefty.
“It was our best chance for the double play,” Pirates manager John Russell said. “Fielder has not been swinging it great. He’s obviously a very good hitter. … But you have to look back at the 0-2 walk to Weeks. That’s what really hurt us. You give up the walk there and that’s what put us in that situation.”
Fielder said he looked for a fastball from Yates, and hit it to left-center field to lift Milwaukee to its 14th win at home in the past 17.
“I just tried to do the job. That’s it,” Fielder said.
Brewers reliever Eric Gagne (2-2) got the win by working around a one-out single to Jason Bay in the ninth in his second appearance after missing 34 games on the disabled list with right rotator cuff tendinitis.
“He’s a good hitter, and he’s Canadian, so you’ve got to help him out a little bit,” fellow countryman Gagne joked. “I know what I can do. I don’t think it was a confidence problem, it was just a matter of going out and executing.”
The Brewers got doubled up when Jason Kendall hit a chopper up the middle. Shortstop Jack Wilson threw to third and caught Hall in a rundown. Jose Bautista tagged Hall and alertly fired to first, where Kendall had made the turn and couldn’t avoid being tagged out by Adam LaRoche.
“It’s a dangerous play, it’s a play that a veteran like Jack Wilson can pull, and there’s not a lot of people that can make that play,” Yost said. “Jack can, and he did. There was nothing we did wrong, either player. There’s not anything that either one of them did, it’s just a great, daring play.”
Both Brewers starter Dave Bush and Maholm had some of their best stuff this season while wearing uniforms representing the Milwaukee Bears (1923) and Pittsburgh Crawfords (1931-’38) of the Negro National League.
Bush, who took a no-hitter into the eighth in his most recent home start, mixed his array of pitches and allowed four hits while striking out a season-high seven over eight innings.
“I thought he was better tonight than he was that day,” Yost said. “I thought he was much better.”
Maholm, the lefty who is 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA over his past seven starts, allowed only Mike Cameron’s solo homer in the second while giving up four hits and striking out six.
“I am not trying to overhaul my mechanics,” Maholm said. “I am trying to be consistent. Consistency helps you make your pitches and go out there and last long into the game.”
The Pirates tied the game in the fifth on consecutive doubles by LaRoche and Bautista.
Cameron, who hit his 14th homer of the season, just missed on a diving attempt of LaRoche’s fly and Bautista drove his hit over Cameron’s head, but Bush worked out of the jam by retiring the next three.
“With nobody out, that really in my mind were the biggest plays of the game,” Bush said. “To me, that was the biggest situation.”
The Pirates optioned LHP Tom Gorzelanny to Triple-A Indianapolis. Gorzelanny, who went 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA last season, has struggled this year going 6-7 with a 6.57 ERA and gave up eight runs in Friday’s 9-1 loss. … Pirates 2B Freddy Sanchez, who had missed the previous two games, singled in the first. … Milwaukee is 19-8 in one-run games. … The game took 2:14, the shortest game at Miller Park this season.