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Snider's river shot propels Pirates

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- Ever since the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Travis Snider in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays last July, the right fielder has had a certain fascination with the Allegheny River, which runs behind center and right fields at PNC Park.

"I've thought what it would be like to hit a ball in the river," Snider said with a smile. "I think every left-handed hitter would. I've seen (third baseman) Pedro Alvarez do it, and I've thought it would be pretty neat to do it, too."

Snider reached the water Thursday night when he had three hits, including a monstrous, tiebreaking, two-run home run, to lead Pittsburgh to a 7-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Snider came from Toronto with the reputation of being a power hitter who had not yet blossomed at the major league level. However, he had hit just one homer in 248 plate appearances with the Pirates, including none in 103 this season, when he stepped into the batter's box in the fifth inning against Hiram Burgos.

Snider then followed a bunt single by Starling Marte with a blast that cleared the right-center field stands and bounced into the Allegheny River, a drive estimated at 458 feet.

"Travis has power," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "The thing we continue to encourage him to do is become a good hitter with power, don't worry about the power. There will be enough people worrying about when's your power coming.

"He's worked so hard to find his way back offensively, he's working his way back. That was a big swing of the bat for us."

Snider finished with three RBIs, as he drove in a run with a single during a four-run sixth inning that pushed the Pirates' lead to 7-1.

"For me, it's not how far it goes, it's just about getting it over the fence," Snider said. "It's been a struggle, a long nine months or so, just keep taking it one day at a time and investing in the routine and working hard."

The Pirates (24-17) won for the sixth time in the last seven games to move a season-high seven games over .500. They also won three times in the four-game series against Milwaukee (16-23), which had won 22 of its last 33 games at PNC Park coming into the series.

Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones and Russell Martin each had two of Pittsburgh's 13 hits.

Jean Segura had two hits to lift his batting average to .353 for the Brewers, who have lost 12 of 14 games in May.

"Offense creates a lot of good emotions," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "There's a lot of good chemistry going on when you score and you get enthusiastic on the bench. When you're not scoring runs, it's hard to get motivated as a group. We need to grind out some runs and get going."

Francisco Liriano (2-0) got through 5 2/3 innings for his second win in as many starts since being activated from the disabled list last Saturday. The Brewers managed only one run off Liriano, though he allowed six hits and three walks while striking out seven.

Liriano, signed as a free agent in the offseason, improved his career record against Milwaukee to 5-2. In 19 1/3 innings pitched in his career at PNC Park, he has allowed four runs and struck out 24.

"I'm excited to be pitching with my new team, but I'm just trying to stay calm, not try to do too much, hit my spots and just focus on location," Liriano said. "Pitching is all about location. I'm locating my fastball a lot better, and my slider is working for me so far."

Burgos (1-2) took his second straight loss, allowing three runs in five innings.

The Pirates put the game away with the fourth-run sixth against Alfredo Figaro. Marte started a string of four consecutive run-scoring hits with a double, and Snider, McCutchen and Jones followed with RBI singles.

"I know we have good players and we're going to be fine, but it's tough now. It's embarrassing," Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez said. "We have a lot of expectations on this team, and we're not playing up to them."

NOTES: RHP Francisco Rodriguez officially joined the Brewers, as his contract was purchased from Triple-A Nashville. Milwaukee signed Rodriguez to a minor league contract last month, and he said he's ready to face major league hitters after pitching four times in the minor leagues, twice each with high Class A Brevard County and Triple-A Nashville. Rodriguez, 31, appeared in 78 games with the Brewers last season and was 2-7 with three saves and a 4.38 ERA. Manager Ron Roenicke said he will have no defined role for Rodriguez in the early going. ... Brewers 3B Aramis Ramirez began the night on the bench after starting the previous three games. Roenicke has been careful with Ramirez's usage since the veteran came off the disabled list May 3 after missing almost four weeks with a sprained left knee. Ramirez flied out as a pinch hitter Thursday. ... Pittsburgh RHP Charlie Morton (Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in June 2012) pitched four innings Thursday for Double-A Altoona on a rehab start and allowed two runs and two hits -- both solo home runs -- with one walk and one strikeout. Morton is scheduled to make three starts for Triple-A Indianapolis and then will be re-evaluated. ... Milwaukee opens a three-game series at St. Louis on Friday night with RHP Wily Peralta (3-3, 5.40) pitching against Cardinals LHP Jaime Garcia (4-2, 2.88). ... The Pirates play host to Houston in the opener of a three-game series on Friday night with RHP Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.28) facing RHP Jordan Lyles (1-1, 8.36).
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