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Injury replacement sparks rally as Brewers end nine-game skid

CBSSports.com wire reports
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PITTSBURGH -- The vote of confidence was much appreciated by Milwaukee Brewers manager Ken Macha. Even better was his bullpen's performance, and the badly needed victory it produced.

George Kottaras, playing only because of an injury, doubled in the tying run and the Brewers rallied from a three-run deficit to end a nine-game losing streak that was their longest in nearly four seasons, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 on Thursday night.

Hours after general manager Doug Melvin strongly supported Macha, the Brewers came back from 3-0 deficit in the first with two two-run innings despite having a thin bench and a beaten-up bullpen.

Carlos Villanueva finished it off by pitching the ninth for the first save this season by a Brewers reliever other than Trevor Hoffman, who sat out the two-game series to work on mechanical problems. Villanueva hit Ryan Doumit with a pitch before getting Delwyn Young to ground into a game-ending double play.

The Brewers were 5 for 13 in save opportunities -- Hoffman is 5 for 10 -- before Villanueva got his sixth career save. Milwaukee's bullpen came in with a 6.17 ERA, the NL's second-worst, only to pitch three scoreless innings in support of starter Chris Narveson (4-1).

Right-hander John Axford, making his third appearance since being called up from Triple-A, didn't allow a hit while pitching the seventh and eighth innings. He also pitched a scoreless inning as Pittsburgh won 6-4 on Wednesday, causing Macha to promise himself that he'd pitch him again Thursday.

Good move. Axford hit 96 mph on the radar gun with his fastball and threw several breaking balls that dropped a foot.

"That was just such a big lift out of the bullpen by Axford. You put an outing like that in, I'd say at least four of those nine games, we win the game," Macha said.

Neither home plate umpire John Hirschbeck nor Brewers catcher Gregg Zaun made it past the second inning.

Hirschbeck developed concussion-like symptoms when struck by a Narveson warmup pitch that fooled Zaun as the Pirates were about to bat in the first. Hirschbeck stayed in the game as the Pirates took a 3-0 lead, only to be replaced by James Hoye before Milwaukee batted in the second. Three umpires finished the game.

"We were staring at the glare and talking about how bad it was and the next pitch, bam, right in the mask," Zaun said. "I felt so bad."

In the second inning, Zaun left the game with a strained right shoulder. He will return to Milwaukee on Friday to be examined by team doctors and is expected to go on the disabled list.

With outfielder Jody Gerut away to be with his pregnant wife, Zaun's injury left the Brewers with two position players on the bench.

Milwaukee was so thin on the bench, pitcher Yovani Gallardo struck out pinch-hitting.

Zaun stayed in the game long enough to drive in a run with a grounder following Corey Hart's RBI triple in a two-run second inning. Kottaras then doubled to tie it and Adam Stern added a run-scoring grounder in the fourth as Milwaukee made good use of its four hits in seven innings off Paul Maholm (3-4).

"It was the best I felt all season, and it wasn't good enough," said Maholm, who struck out seven.

Maholm waited more than a half-hour to pitch between the first and second innings because of the Pirates' big inning and the Hirschbeck injury delay, and it admittedly got him out of his rhythm.

"Definitely, it's no excuse," he said. "It happens. But a couple of bad pitches, and there's the game."

In the Pirates' first, Steve Pearce drove a two-run triple over the head of center fielder Stern and Andy LaRoche followed with a double.

"You think that after you get a three-spot in the first ... " Pearce said. "We couldn't find a big hit."

Narveson was effective after that, giving up three hits over five shutout innings.

Notes
  • Stern made his sixth career start in CF. The first five came with Boston in 2005-06.
  • Prince Fielder went 0 for 3 against Maholm and is 3 for 40 (.075) against him in his career.
  • Villanueva had three saves last season.
  • Milwaukee avoided its first 10-game losing streak since late in the 2006 season.
 
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Carlos Villanueva becomes the first pitcher other than Trevor Hoffman to save a game for the Brewers. (AP)
Carlos Villanueva becomes the first pitcher other than Trevor Hoffman to save a game for the Brewers. (AP)

Players of the Game
Milwaukee

C. Hart
AB 3
R 2
H 1
HR 0
RBI 1
Pittsburgh

S. Pearce
AB 3
R 1
H 1
HR 0
RBI 2
 

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Milwaukee Brewers
Rickie Weeks, 2B4000011 .243
Alcides Escobar, SS4000010 .241
Prince Fielder, 1B4010011 .272
Ryan Braun, LF4000001 .333
Casey McGehee, 3B3210110 .325
Corey Hart, RF3211110 .270
    Carlos Villanueva, P0000000 .000
Gregg Zaun, C1001000 .265
    George Kottaras, C2011100 .244
Adam Stern, CF3001011 .000
Chris Narveson, P2010011 .300
   a- Yovani Gallardo, PH1000010 .150
    John Axford, P0000000 .000
    Joe Inglett, RF0000000 .343
Totals3145438  
a-struck out for Narveson in the 7th
Batting
2B - George Kottaras (5, Maholm)
3B - Corey Hart (2, Maholm)
RBI - Corey Hart (20), Gregg Zaun (14), George Kottaras (10), Adam Stern (1)
Team LOB - 3
Fielding
DP - Weeks-Escobar-Fielder
Milwaukee Brewers
Chris Narveson (W,4-1) 6733120 5.17
John Axford (H,1) 2000120 2.25
Carlos Villanueva (S,1) 1000000 2.91
HBP - Doumit (by Carlos Villanueva)
Pitches-Strikes - Chris Narveson 112-71, John Axford 39-26, Carlos Villanueva 12-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chris Narveson 11-5, John Axford 2-2, Carlos Villanueva 1-1
Batters Faced - Chris Narveson 26, John Axford 7, Carlos Villanueva 3
Pittsburgh Pirates
Lastings Milledge, LF3010100 .246
Bobby Crosby, 2B4110022 .237
    Jeff Karstens, P0000000 .200
    Javier Lopez, P0000000 .000
    Brendan Donnelly, P0000000 .000
Andrew McCutchen, CF4010000 .327
Garrett Jones, RF4100002 .267
Steve Pearce, 1B3112100 .280
Andy LaRoche, 3B4011001 .264
Ronny Cedeno, SS4010001 .238
Jason Jaramillo, C3010001 .258
   a- Ryan Doumit, PH0000000 .282
Paul Maholm, P2000011 .000
   b- Delwyn Young, PH-2B2000011 .210
Totals3337324  
a-hit by pitch for Jaramillo in the 9th
b-struck out for Maholm in the 7th
Batting
2B - Lastings Milledge (9, Narveson), Andy LaRoche (5, Narveson)
3B - Steve Pearce (1, Narveson)
RBI - Steve Pearce 2 (4), Andy LaRoche (10)
2-OUT RBI - Steve Pearce 2 (2), Andy LaRoche (2)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
DP - Maholm-Cedeno-Pearce
Pittsburgh Pirates
Paul Maholm (L,3-4) 7444370 4.50
Jeff Karstens 0.2000000 5.24
Javier Lopez 0.1100000 2.20
Brendan Donnelly 1000010 6.30
Pitches-Strikes - Paul Maholm 111-70, Jeff Karstens 4-4, Javier Lopez 7-3, Brendan Donnelly 8-5
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Paul Maholm 10-3, Jeff Karstens 1-1, Javier Lopez 1-0, Brendan Donnelly 1-1
Batters Faced - Paul Maholm 27, Jeff Karstens 2, Javier Lopez 2, Brendan Donnelly 3
Game Information
Attendance - 13975
Game Time - 3:02
Temperature - 78
Umpires - Home - John Hirschbeck, First Base - James Hoye, Second Base - Wally Bell, Third Base - Laz Diaz