Pirates assured of non-losing season

The SportsXchange

MILWAUKEE -- For the first time in two decades, the Pittsburgh Pirates will not finish with a losing season.

Travis Snider made sure of that, belting a pinch-hit home run to lead off the ninth inning of the Pirates' 4-3 victory over the Brewers Tuesday night in Milwaukee.

At 81-57, the Pirates have won more games than any Pittsburgh team since 1992, when the franchise finished the season 96-66 and went on to the National League Championship Series for the second consecutive year.

Despite the long stretch of futility, reaching such a significant milestone brought only a subdued response.

"It's a step in the right direction," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was on our to-do list. The one family I'm happy for is the Clemente family. They told me earlier in the season that we can't have 21 losing seasons, that we've got to find a way to not have Roberto's number tied to that. I told them we'd find a way to take care of that and it's been taken care of.

"We'll move on from here. Our plans are to continue to play and compete and go further."

Snider was making just his second appearance since returning from the disabled list Sunday when he opened the ninth against Brewers closer Jim Henderson (3-5).

Henderson started off the at-bat with a slider for ball one and followed with five straight fastballs, working the count to 2-2, before Henderson hung another slider that Snider ripped to right-center for his fourth home run of the season.

"I didn't feel like I was quite on time, wasn't trying to do too much when you've got a guy throwing that hard," Snider said. "Luckily, I had seen the slider earlier in the at-bat and when I saw it elevated, it was just a natural reaction, one of those things you don't really remember. It just happens."

With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth and facing Brewers right-hander Brandon Kintzler, Andrew McCutchen drew a one-out walk and moved to second on Justin Morneau's single to left. Marlon Byrd worked the count full before ripping a fastball down the left-field line for his 30th double of the season, giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead.

"We got those guys to stretch the lineup out," Hurdle said of Morneau and Byrd, who were acquired in trades last week. "They're impact bats that can hit in the middle of the lineup. That makes everybody better. They've got some experience. ... Morneau has the ability to throw a professional at-bat out there every time he goes up, and Byrd has shown the ability to plate runs since he's been here."

Milwaukee came back again in the bottom of the inning.

Pinch-hitter Caleb Gindl drew a leadoff walk off right-hander Vin Mazzaro (7-2) and moved to second on Norichika Aoki's ground out to first. Jean Segura tied the game with a base hit up the middle, but Jonathan Lucroy hit into an inning-ending double play.

After giving up the home run to Snider, Brewers closer Jim Henderson (3-5) retired the side in the top of the ninth. But in the bottom of the inning, Milwaukee couldn't take advantage of Scooter Gennett's two-out double off Mark Melancon, who earned his 11th save of the season.

"Tough loss," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We are facing a good team, a hot team, and really the two guys that have been good for us at the end of the game for us both gave up a run today. That's a good team we're facing, a good offense, and we have to be really good to beat them. I thought we battled really well today and came up short."

Gerrit Cole went six innings for Pittsburgh and allowed two runs on five hits with a walk and five strikeouts.

Aside from ending the run of losing, Pittsburgh's victory also added a half-game to its lead in the NL Central after the Cardinals lost to Cincinnati 1-0 and fell two games back in the divisional race.

Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo had another good outing, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks with six strikeouts over seven innings.

"[His pitch count] was pretty high after four, and in the fifth inning he had just 10 pitches and that got him back on line," Roenicke said. "He was throwing a lot of pitches early, and his command was off and on."

In four starts since returning from the disabled list on Aug. 16, Gallardo is 2-0 with a 1.36 ERA.

NOTES: Milwaukee added three players from Triple-A Nashville on Tuesday. RHP Johnny Hellweg and 1B/OF Sean Halton returned to the Brewers, while RHP Jimmy Nelson is in the majors for the first time. Hellweg will start Saturday, and Nelson will work out of the bullpen, according to Roenicke. ... Pittsburgh recalled five players from the minor leagues Tuesday, including RHP Jason Grilli. He will throw in a few "non-leverage outings," according to Hurdle, before moving back into the closer's role he held before suffering an injury to his right flexor tendon on July 22. ... Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez returned to Milwaukee's starting lineup Tuesday. His was given Monday off to rest a sore right knee. ... McCutchen hit the 100th home run of his career in the first inning.
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