MILWAUKEE -- Mired in a season-long slump, Rickie Weeks
has been spending plenty of extra time in the Brewers' batting cages and video rooms.
All the extra work paid off Tuesday, when Weeks capped off a 3-for-4 day with a three-run home run in the eighth inning that helped Milwaukee close out a 12-8 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates
Weeks began the day hitting .167 with one home run and four RBI and showed up early Tuesday, arriving around noon to work with the coaches.
"I wanted to kill myself with work in the cage," said Weeks, whose last multi-hit game and home run came on April 3. "I was frustrated and I wanted to wear myself out and try to break out of it. I guess it worked."
Manager Ron Roenicke, who has resisted the urge to pull Weeks from the lineup -- due to a combination of faith and lack of other viable options -- was pleased.
"He had a really good day," Roenicke said. "He's had good at-bats recently, but hasn't had the results. But today, everything worked."
Weeks' big day helped extend the Milwaukee misery for the Pirates, who have lost eight in a row to the Brewers and are now just 7-46 at Miller Park.
The Pirates overcame an erratic start from right-hander James McDonald, who gave up seven runs on eight hits and five walks in five innings, but still had a chance to earn his third victory of the season when his offense took advantage of Milwaukee miscues in the sixth.
Trailing 7-5, Pedro Alvarez struck out to open the inning. Brandon Inge
and Clint Barmes followed with singles. Pinch-hitter Jose Tabata
grounded into what appeared to be an easy double play, but Brewers second baseman Weeks struggled to handle the ball and touched second a split second ahead of Barmes but threw late trying to get Tabata at first.
Replays, though, showed the throw got to Martin Maldonado just in time to catch Tabata and, on the very next pitch, Starling Marte
drove a Burke Badenhop sinker off the backdrop in center field to put Pittsburgh ahead 8-7.
Umpires originally ruled it a ground-rule double but, after checking the replay, awarded Marte the homer -- his second of the season.
Russell Martin ended the inning with a line-out to right. Even though McDonald had already given way to a pinch-hitter, he was still the pitcher of record and in line to win, but the bullpen couldn't hold the lead.
Milwaukee's Jean Segura quickly tied the game with a home run, his second in as many nights and third of the season, to lead off the bottom of the sixth off right-hander Vin Mazzaro. Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy singled off Mazzaro, who gave way to Bryan Morris, summoned from Triple-A Indianapolis earlier in the day.
Morris ended the inning without any further damage, getting Weeks to ground into a double play and retiring Carlos Gomez on a line drive right to second baseman Brandon Inge.
But Yuniesky Betancourt
put the Brewers back ahead in the seventh, slamming Morris' 1-0 offering to right for his sixth home run of the year. That gave Milwaukee a 9-8 lead and moved Betancourt into the team lead with 21 RBI.
"Betancourt has been unbelievable offensively and defensively," Roenicke said.
After the Pirates stranded a pair of runners in the eighth, Weeks broke the game open off left-hander Tony Watson, leaving Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle concerned about his relief corps.
"We have red-lined our bullpen," Hurdle said. "The last two nights in particular. I didn't want to use Watson unless we had the lead. ... We've had to make a couple of adjustments just to get innings. We've got to improve the length from the starters because these guys can't keep carrying the workload that they're carrying."
NOTES: After starting the season 2-8, the Brewers have won 12 of 15 games and finished April 14-11. ... Gaby Sanchez hit his fourth home run of the season in the third inning, giving the Pirates at least one home run in 11 of their last 13 games. ... Carlos Gomez doubled in the third to extend his hitting streak to seven games. ... Pittsburgh 2B Starling Marte is 6-for-7 leading off the first inning the last eight games and leads the majors with a .636 average in the first this season. ... Milwaukee was playing its first game of the season with the roof open at Miller Park.
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