Broxton backs Davies in win over Pirates

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers avoided dropping in the National League Central standings by taking down the Pittsburgh Pirates Tuesday night 3-1 at Miller Park.

Zach Davies collected his 14th win of the year as he tossed 6.2 innings, allowing one run on six hits. Manny Piña backed him up with a pair of RBI, while Keon Broxton added a late-game insurance run with a pinch-hit solo blast in the seventh inning.

“Any run that we can scratch on at the end of the game really helps our team, helps the pitchers,” Broxton said. “It makes it tough on the other team, knowing they have to get an extra run. It’s not just one [run] to tie the game up, so yeah, that was a clutch home run.”

Newcomer Neil Walker continued to impress, making one of the more important defensive plays of the game. With the game tied at 1-1 in the sixth inning, Walker made a sliding stop of an infield grounder, tossing the ball over to first base in time to stop a run from scoring.

Closer Corey Knebel also notched his 23rd save of the year.

Pirates close gap in NL Central in Starling Marte’s return from suspension

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Starling Marte returned from an 80-game PED suspension Tuesday night to help his team take down the Milwaukee Brewers 4-3 at PNC Park.

Marte went 1-for-3 with a walk and a single, while Josh Harrison and Francisco Cervelli broke down Milwaukee starter Junior Guerra with home runs in the sixth inning. Pittsburgh has now won nine of its last 11 games, to come within five games of the National-League-Central-leading Brewers.

For Milwaukee, it marks the squad’s third straight loss, as the Chicago Cubs climb to within 2 ½ games of the division lead. Some timely hitting could have helped the Brewers maintain their distance, only able to scratch across three runs on 13 hits against the Pirates. During their three-game losing streak, the Brewers are 3-for-23 with runners in scoring position.

‘You’ve got to get hits with runners in scoring position,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “Some nights you’re not going to get them. The last couple nights, we’ve gotten guys on — just unable to get that next hit.”

While he sounded composed in the post-game press conference, Counsell lost his composure in the eighth inning over a called strike against third baseman Travis Shaw. Counsell’s disagreement with home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski resulted in an ejection.

Milwaukee can split the four-game series with Pittsburgh by winning the final two games. Zach Davies starts opposite Gerrit Cole during Wednesday’s game at 6:05 p.m. CT.

Brewers can’t turn opportunities into runs in 4-2 loss to Pirates

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers stranded 11 runners on base, while Gregory Polanco drove in two runs to give the Pittsburgh Pirates a 4-2 win Monday night at Miller Park.

Polanco went 4-for-4 at the plate, including RBI doubles off Brent Suter and Josh Hader. He also sparked the Pittsburgh offense with his base-running, scoring the tying run in the fifth inning.

The fifth inning was a concerning one for Milwaukee, with catcher Stephen Vogt leaving with neck and knee injuries following a home-plate collision with Pirates starter Chad Kuhl. But the Brewers were also concerned with the plays that got away from them.

“We had plenty of opportunities,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It was a good ball game. We had some rallies going, the bases loaded a couple times.”

The sixth inning might have been Milwaukee’s best chance to regain the lead, with two runners on base, two outs in the inning, and Jesus Aguilar prepared to deliver the pinch-hit, go-ahead run. Aguilar made good on the situational hit, but with Manny Piña rounding third base, Polanco launched a run-stopping ball from the outfield to keep the game tied and end the inning.

Milwaukee’s Suter lasted into the fifth inning, allowing seven hits and two earned runs. Even he couldn’t deny Polanco the recognition he deserved for his role in Pittsburgh’s win.

“They did a good job of hitting some pitches that were not necessarily bad pitches. You got to tip your hat to them, and Polanco had a heck of a night, so you got to tip your hat to him, as well.”

Davies struggles, offense sputters in 7-3 loss to Pirates

MILWAUKEE — The Pittsburgh Pirates jumped out to a 6-0 lead and ultimately hung on for a 7-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday night.

Brewers starter Zach Davies was tagged for all seven runs scored by the Pirates, allowing 10 hits in the process. He left after five innings of work, having yet to make it into the seventh inning this season. In fact, Davies only has three games this season in which he’s thrown six innings. Davies has now allowed 14 earned runs in 15 innings over his last three starts.

“I should be ready from pitch one,” Davies said. “I’m kind of over the mechanical, the sequencing, all those kind of excuses. I think it’s just time to go out and compete.”

But Tuesday night’s loss wasn’t solely on Davies. The offense stranded 21 base runners, with Eric Thames and Manny Piña each going 0-for-5 at the plate. Thames’ last hit was on June 17, making it on base just once since.

One of the few positives for Milwaukee was outfielder Nick Franklin’s two RBI, one of which came on a second-inning home run and the other with an RBI double in the third.

Brewers pitching falls apart in 8-1 loss to Pirates

MILWAUKEE — An area of weakness reared its ugly head as the Milwaukee Brewers fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-1 Monday night.

That weakness was relief pitching. Wily Peralta took over for Matt Garza in the sixth inning only to leave an inning later after allowing four runs to score on five hits. But by the time Peralta was taken out in favor of Paolo Espino, the damage was done and Milwaukee couldn’t climb out of the 8-1 hole.

“I think the ability to create ground balls was really [Peralta’s] strength with his fastball,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said after the loss. “The velocity is usually what makes the slider a better pitch, but we’re not getting either, really.”

The Brewers’ bullpen has now allowed 130 runs this season (third most in MLB), while maintaining its last-place ranking with 19 losses.

But Garza’s 5.1 innings didn’t give Milwaukee the start it needed to succeed, with a sixth inning Andrew McCutchen home run giving the Pirates a 4-1 lead. Opposing pitcher Gerrit Cole even helped his cause with a sacrifice base hit.

The Brewers offense can be summed up by the solo home run in the second inning from Travis Shaw that just escaped over the center field wall. That was one of just five hits Milwaukee recorded on the night.

Brewers avoid sweep with 6-2 win over Pirates

PITTSBURGH — The Milwaukee Brewers put together a complete performance in their 6-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday afternoon.

Zach Davies provided 5.2 innings of solid baseball, allowing four hits, two earned runs, and striking out seven Pittsburgh batters. The bullpen combined for a shutout the rest of the way, highlighted by Corey Knebel’s eighth inning. He struck out the side for his 17 straight game with at least one strikeout.

The bats were active as well, with the Brewers logging eight hits as a team. Eric Thames went 3-for-4 at the plate and recorded his 12th home run of the year with an eighth inning solo shot. He’s now one shy of the league lead (Ryan Zimmerman and Aaron Judge).

The Brewers get Monday off before returning to Miller Park on Tuesday night to begin a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox.

Pirates beat Brewers 2-1 on 10th-inning walk-off

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison hit a walk-off single in the 10th inning Saturday night to beat the Milwaukee Brewers 2-1.

It was the 11th hit of the night for Pittsburgh, complemented by great pitching from Gerrit Cole, Felipe Rivero, and Tony Watson. Cole lasted seven innings, giving up just two hits and one earned run. Watson would pick up his first win of the year after throwing two scoreless innings.

The Brewers couldn’t do much against the Pirates pitching staff, racking up just three hits over the course of the night. It didn’t do Matt Garza any favors, who pitched seven innings of one-run ball. Garza gave up eight hits, but struck out four to lower his ERA to 2.55 on the season (lowest among Milwaukee starters).

The only offense for Milwaukee came in the form of a fourth-inning home run by Hernan Perez, his fourth of the year.

Milwaukee has now lost three of its last four games and six of the last nine. That drops the Brewers to 15-16 and fourth in the National League Central.

Rain delay at PNC Park contributes to Brewers 4-0 loss

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 4-0 Friday night in soggy conditions at PNC Park.

A two hour, 27 minute rain delay at the top of the fourth inning spelled an early end to Jimmy Nelson’s night, interrupting what had been a dazzling performance of three hitless innings.

“It’s a shame because he was pitching very well,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Nelson. “He was on top of his game, for sure. It was a very solid, quick, efficient three innings. 2 ½ hours [rain delay] was just too long.”

The delay did little to slow down what Pittsburgh was doing on the mound. Starter Chad Kuhl and reliever Wade LeBlanc combined for six shutout innings, allowing a total of four hits. Josh Bell led the way for the Pirates offensively, going 2-for-4 with a double and a home run.

Counsell not yet ready to call Feliz “closer”

PHOENIX — Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell addressed reporters Monday at Maryvale Baseball Park, but wasn’t yet ready to hand over the keys to the “closer” position for newcomer Neftali Feliz.

“Neftali is going to get really important outs for us,” Counsell said. “That’s what we signed him to do.”

Perhaps that’s Counsell’s politically-correct approach to allowing competition this spring, but so far, no other candidates have stuck out as legitimate replacements for Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith.

Feliz was signed to a one-year, $5.35 million guaranteed contract on Jan. 19 after failing to reach a multi-year extension with the Pittsburgh Pirates in November. The 28-year-old 2010 AL Rookie of the Year posted a 3.52 ERA and 1.137 WHIP with the Pirates last season.

“He’s got a track record, Counsell said. “What we saw last year was him getting back to the player that broke into the big leagues and was really a dynamic arm and reliever, and capable of great things.”

Feliz is no stranger to pitching in late innings, but after the Texas Rangers tried to convert him to a starter in the 2012 season, he injured his throwing arm and underwent Tommy John surgery which kept him out for the entire 2013 season.

It’s possible Counsell doesn’t want to bank on Feliz’ resurgence in 2016 as means that he’ll be able to last an entire season in Milwaukee as the closer. But with no other real options at this point in spring training, it would appear it’s just a matter of time before Counsell makes the label official.

Garza roughed up in 6-3 loss to Pirates

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee Brewers returned to Miller Park for the first time in the month of September, but a difficult night on the mound for Matt Garza spoiled the homecoming in a 6-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Officially eliminated from a postseason appearance, the Brewers looked to play spoiler for a Pirates team that swept the Crew in a four-game series last time they came to Miller Park. The Pirates set an early tone, however, taking a 2-0 lead after just three batters.

Garza’s season ERA rose to 4.52 after giving up five earned runs on eight hits and four innings pitched. He came into Tuesday night’s contest hoping to keep the earned runs to a minimum. He held a 1.16 ERA over his previous four games, but allowed 12 runs in total during that span.

For Pittsburgh, the win brings their season record to 75-75 and maintains a chance at a postseason berth. The Pirates are currently 4 ½ games behind the Cardinals for the second National League wild card spot and their elimination number stand at eight.

Jimmy Nelson gets the start Wednesday night in place of Junior Guerra, who was shut down for the year after reaching his rookie innings limit.