PITTSBURGH -- Don't look now, St. Louis Cardinals. Here come the Brewers -- yes, those supposed-to-be-in-last-place Milwaukee Brewers.
Geoff Jenkins' double on a two-strike, two-out pitch in the ninth from Pittsburgh closer Jose Mesa scored the decisive run, and the Brewers won their 11th in 14 games by rallying past the Pirates 4-3 Friday night.
Mesa, 12-for-12 in save opportunities but pitching in a non-save opportunity for the first time this season, walked pinch-hitter Jeff Cirillo to start the ninth before getting the next two batters. But Jenkins lined a 1-2 pitch into right field, helping hand the Pirates only their third loss in 10 games.
"Obviously, it was a tough situation with a good pitcher up there throwing hard," Jenkins said. "I was just trying to get something I could handle."
Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon usually doesn't go to Mesa without a lead, but he felt his closer could go two innings if necessary.
"I wanted my best guy in the game in the ninth," McClendon said. "I wanted to get something going in the ninth and win the game. But, here, in a tie ballgame, he was the guy I wanted for two innings."
The Brewers, coming off 12 consecutive losing seasons but 9-3 on a just-concluded homestand, are within 3½ games of NL Central leader St. Louis. The Cardinals lost 2-0 to the Mets on Friday.
"We're on a pretty good roll and morale in here is high," winning pitcher Chris Capuano said. "It's been a lot of fun on this run and we've got to ride it out as long as we can."
It may help they're in Pittsburgh for two more days -- the Brewers are 3-0 in PNC Park and 5-1 against the Pirates after going 6-12 against them last season.
The Pirates returned home after going 7-3 on their best road trip of 10 games or longer in 15 years, only to lose for the 10th time in 13 home games. It's their second bad start at home in as many seasons; they started 4-13 there last season.
"We've played only 13 games here," McClendon said. "We'll get it together."
The Pirates didn't against Capuano (3-2), who pitched a career-high eight innings in his 25th major-league start, giving up three runs and seven hits, striking out six and walking three. He has lasted at least seven innings in each of his last three starts.
Derrick Turnbow pitched the ninth for his sixth save in seven opportunities, giving him four wins and four saves in the Brewers' last 13 games.
But the Brewers tied it each time after Kip Wells intentionally walked Russell Branyan with at least one runner on. Branyan was 9-for-24 with four homers against Wells before walking three straight times against him and four times overall.
After Carlos Lee singled and scored on Lyle Overbay's double to start the fourth, Branyan walked to put runners on first and second, and Wells hit Chad Moeller with a pitch to load the bases. Capuano, 1-for-15 this season, then hit a sacrifice fly on an 0-2 pitch to tie it at 2.
Wells, coming off three consecutive wins, walked Overbay to start the sixth, then intentionally walked Branyan with one out. Moeller, batting .111 when the game started, singled home Overbay for his third RBI this season.
"It's frustrating to get beat by who I got beat by," Wells said. "I feel like I had a good handle on those particular hitters (Capuano and Moeller)."
Wells was lifted after throwing 109 pitches in six innings, walking four and allowing three runs and six hits. The right-hander has a 6.05 ERA in three winless starts against Milwaukee this season.
Bay's homer ran his hitting streak to 11 games and was Pittsburgh's 20th in 10 games. Brewers pitchers have yielded 22 homers in eight games.
- Mesa has allowed only four runs all season, but was scored upon for the third time in four games.
- Milwaukee won just in time: A downpour began a minute after the game ended, which would have meant a long rain delay or a possible suspended game if the score had been tied.
- Pirates SS Jack Wilson (virus) was a late scratch.
- Billy Hall stole second and third in succession in the eighth with Mike Gonzalez pitching -- his first two steals this season -- but was left on base when Moeller struck out.
- Pittsburgh had allowed only two runs in each of its previous five games.