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Walker's big hit helps Pirates knock off Brewers

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH - It would have been easy for Neil Walker to get a little hyper in the batter's box.

The bases loaded were loaded and his Pittsburgh Pirates had a rare scoring opportunity against a pitcher who has stymied them in their own ballpark.

However, Walker lined a two-run single to center field with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning off Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo to break a scoreless tie and push the Pirates to a 3-1 win over the Brewers at Miller Park.

Gallardo had not allowed a run in his last three starts in Pittsburgh, a span covering 17 2/3 innings, and had struck out 21. Furthermore, he had a 10-2 record overall against the Pirates entering Wednesday.

"We know what we get into when we face him and he does a pretty good job usually against not just us but a lot of different teams," Walker said. "It was just another one of those games where we had to scratch and claw and take advantage of the opportunities we had."

Walker took advantage of his opportunity by staying calm.

"I think the biggest thing you learn as you get a little bit older and accumulate more at-bats at the big-league level is that sometimes less is more," Walker said. "When you try to do too much, sometimes it's counterproductive."

Gallardo was impressed by Walker's approach at the plate and how he was able to fight off a tough pitch for the game-winning hit.

"I actually came in (to the clubhouse) and took a look at the video and the pitch was off the plate and below the knees," Gallardo said. "It was a tough pitch. Sometimes, you've got to tip your cap to the hitter. I threw it where I wanted to throw. After that, you can't control what's going to happen as a pitch. It was a nice piece of hitting on his part."

Pittsburgh's Starling Marte led off the sixth a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. One out later, Andrew McCutchen walked and stole second, then Gaby Sanchez walked to load the bases for Walker.

"The sixth inning was a big shot in the arm for us," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Walker's single was enough for the Pirates (23-17) to eke out their fifth win in the last six games. They also beat the Brewers (16-22) for the third time in four meetings after losing 10 of their previous 11 games against them.

Wandy Rodriguez was able to withstand Rickie Weeks' solo home run, his third of the season, in the seventh inning to get the win.

A throwing error by Weeks on Walker's two-out grounder enabled Pittsburgh to score an insurance run in the eighth to make it 3-1.

Rodriguez (4-2) gave up only the one run and six hits in seven innings while striking out five and walking one. He is 5-1 in his last eight starts at PNC Park, dating to last season.

Milwaukee had its best scoring chance against Rodriguez when Jonathan Lucroy led off the fourth inning with a triple, breaking an 0-for-10 skid. However, he was left stranded when Rodriguez got Carlos Gomez and Weeks to pop out and Alex Gonzalez to ground out.

"He made pitches he absolutely had to make to get out of the inning," Hurdle said.

Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli finished with one perfect inning each, Grilli improving to 16-for-16 on save opportunities.

Gallardo (3-3) walked four in his six-inning stint but held the Pirates to two runs and three hits. He struck out five in notching just his fourth quality start in nine outings this season.

The Brewers' Norichka Aoki went 2-for-4 and was the only player with multiple hits. The leadoff man is 22-for-50 (.440) in his last 12 games.

Milwaukee is 2-11 in May and 1-5 on its 10-game road trip.

"Certainly we had a great opportunity after Luc's (Lucroy's) triple but we've got to swing it better," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "It was a well-played game, a well-pitched game but we didn't hit."

NOTES: Milwaukee will add RHP Francisco Rodriguez to their roster before Thursday night's finale of the four-game series. The Brewers re-signed Rodriguez to a minor league contract last month as a free agent, and he had a clause that allowed him to opt out if he was not in the major leagues by Thursday. Rodriguez, who set the major league record with 62 saves for the Los Angeles Angels in 2008, made two relief appearances each with high Class A Brevard County and Triple-A Nashville, pitching a combined four scoreless innings. ... Pittsburgh placed INF John McDonald on the disabled list due to a strained lower back and recalled INF Jordy Mercer from Triple-A Indianapolis. Mercer started at shortstop as Clint Barmes got the night off following a 12-inning game Tuesday night. ... Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who watched the game from the box seats, got a rousing ovation when he was shown on the scoreboard between innings. ... Rookie RHP Hiram Burgos (1-1, 6.86) will start for the Brewers on Thursday against LHP Francisco Liriano (1-0, 1.69).
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