The Pittsburgh Pirates are thinking a big inning could lead to big things as they try to make up more ground on the division-leading Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday when the NL Central rivals continue their series.
The Pirates (29-31) put together their highest-scoring game in nearly four years Friday, riding an eight-run sixth inning to a 15-5 rout of the Brewers (36-26). Russell Martin's three-run double highlighted the game-breaking rally while Andrew McCutchen and Jordy Mercer added solo homers for Pittsburgh, which reached 15 runs for the first time since a 15-3 romp over Milwaukee on July 21, 2010.
"Anytime in the season where you can just feed off each other like that, it's going to be a fun time," Martin said after the Pirates cut their deficit to the Brewers to six games. "Especially against a team that we're trailing right now. If you can beat up on a good team, it definitely does give you confidence."
Seeing McCutchen regain his stroke can only add to that confidence. The reigning NL MVP is 7 for 21 with four doubles and three homers in six games this month after not having an extra-base hit or RBI in his final nine games of May while batting .188. He's hitting .417 with four homers and 14 RBIs in his last 19 home games.
McCutchen and the Bucs will try to further their surge against Matt Garza (3-4, 4.42 ERA), who has some momentum of his own after shutting down Minnesota on Monday. He threw 6 1-3 scoreless innings of a 6-2 victory, his first win in five starts.
"I've been feeling good," said Garza, who hasn't won consecutive outings since last July. "Baby steps. I've felt great. My mechanics are where I want them to be and I'm getting back to where I've been."
The right-hander, though, has been unable to carry that success to the road, where he's 0-2 with a 6.59 ERA in five starts. One of those subpar outings came in Pittsburgh on April 19, when he was reached for six runs and eight hits in five innings before the Brewers rallied for an 8-7 victory.
Garza is 1-2 with a 4.36 ERA in six lifetime starts versus the Pirates, with Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata going a combined 13 for 32 against him.
Milwaukee has given up 32 runs in its last four games - its highest amount in any four-game span this year - and may need its offense to compensate. That may be challenging against Edinson Volquez (3-4, 4.25), who went 1-0 in two starts versus the Brewers in April, yielding three earned runs and seven hits in 13 1-3 innings.
He did just enough for a victory Sunday, giving up two runs in five innings of a 5-3 road win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Milwaukee's aggressive approach early in the count may pay dividends versus Volquez, who has allowed opponents to hit .352 when they put the first or second pitch of an at-bat in play.
The Brewers are batting .344 in such instances, keyed by sluggers Carlos Gomez and Ryan Braun. Gomez is 32 for 65 with seven homers and 19 RBIs within the first two pitches, while Braun is 25 for 62 with six homers and 17 RBIs.
The duo are a combined 19 for 55 versus Volquez, with Gomez 7 for 21 with three solo homers.