|Pittsburgh (77-55) «||1||0||0||1||2||0||3||0||x||7||13||2|
PITTSBURGH -- Marlon Byrd likens joining a new team to the first day of school.
It took the well-traveled outfielder all of four at-bats to become one of the cool kids on the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Byrd celebrated his arrival to the NL Central pennant race with a three-run home run, an epic strikeout, two standing ovations and a curtain call in Pittsburgh's 7-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night.
Quite an entrance for a player who 24 hours earlier was playing for the New York Mets.
Thrust abruptly into the middle of a pennant race, Byrd provided the kind of immediate jolt the Pirates were looking for when they traded for the former All-Star along with backup catcher John Buck on Tuesday.
"You want to feel accepted," Byrd said. "I felt accepted all day long."
Smile plastered on his face from the moment he was introduced as the cleanup hitter, Byrd made an immediate impression, lining into a double play in his first at-bat. He followed that up with a 14-pitch duel against Milwaukee's Tom Gorzelanny (3-6), a showdown that ended with Byrd flailing at strike three before being serenaded with a roar on his way back to the dugout.
"That was amazing," Byrd said. "I was upset with myself that I didn't finish the at-bat but to hear the fans cheering, that was a beautiful thing."
No matter. Byrd repaid the favor and then some in the seventh, drilling a fastball from Milwaukee reliever Burke Badenhop into the bushes in center field for his 22nd home run of the season. The 35-year-old sprinted around the bases and was so lost in the moment he needed Pittsburgh ace A.J. Burnett to tell him to head back to the top step so he could tip his cap.
"Coming in I was so excited," Byrd said. "It was `Hey, get back out there.'"
Byrd's flair for the dramatic completed a night Pittsburgh (77-55) moved within five victories of the franchise's first winning season in a generation.
Josh Harrison went 3 for 4 with an RBI for the Pirates and Andrew McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez added two hits apiece. Charlie Morton (6-3) scattered five hits over 6 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out two to pick up his first career victory over the Brewers.
Not that Morton noticed. The right-hander called his futility against Milwaukee "needless information" because it has little bearing on the future.
"I think it's something people like to talk about because there's been some consistency in that regard but really what the team is doing really well is not thinking about yesterday or two weeks ago, it's the game today," Morton said. "If it's the Brewers, it's the Brewers, so be it. This is a different year anyway."
Gorzelanny yielded four runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out five. Carlos Gomez had two of Milwaukee's seven hits but the Brewers offered little resistance against Morton's steady dose of sinkers.
"Offensively, we hit a few balls that could have got something going but on the whole we just didn't do too much," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
The Pirates did plenty, with their new slugger providing the finishing touch. Gorzelanny, who spent five seasons with the Pirates from 2005-09, can see Byrd's presence having a positive influence in the clubhouse.
"He's a good piece that they got," Gorzelanny said. "He's a smart player. He plays the game the right way, he plays it hard. Having a ballplayer like this, who is always a tough out, is going to make their lineup better."
The homer was more celebratory than critical after Morton handcuffed the Brewers to end years of futility against Pittsburgh's biggest nemesis. Milwaukee has won more than 70 percent of its games against Pittsburgh since 2007 and came in 4-0 against Morton.
That run of dominance is now over. Morton, still finding his way back from Tommy John surgery, dominated after some early trouble. The Brewers put four runners on base in the first inning but couldn't score and Morton took care of matters from there. He retired nine straight at one point and would have worked deeper if not for a rare mental mistake by catcher Russell Martin.
Byrd's long ball restored order and the Pirates exhaled while clinching the season series against the Brewers for the first time since 2006.
Pirates LHP Wandy Rodriguez continues to deal with left forearm inflammation but will not require surgery. Rodriguez, who has been on the disabled list since May, was evaluated by Dr. James Andrews in Florida on Tuesday after experiencing discomfort during a throwing session. Rodriguez will resume throwing later this week ... Brewers prospect Johnny Hellweg was named the Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Year. Hellweg is 11-5 with a 3.16 ERA for Triple-A Nashville. The right-hander, who is 0-3 with a 10.97 in three starts with Milwaukee this season, will be recalled to the majors next month ... The series concludes on Thursday when Pittsburgh's Gerrit Cole 6-6, 3.81 ERA) faces Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo (9-9, 4.61).
|Teammates wait to congratulate new Pirate Marlon Byrd (center), who hits a three-run home run in his debut. (USATSI)|
|Players of the Game|
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|Norichika Aoki, RF||4||0||1||0||1||0||1||.284|
|Jean Segura, SS||5||0||0||0||0||0||3||.301|
|Jonathan Lucroy, C||3||0||0||0||1||1||0||.288|
|Aramis Ramirez, 3B||3||0||1||0||0||1||1||.269|
|Carlos Gomez, CF||4||0||2||0||0||0||3||.285|
|Caleb Gindl, LF||4||0||1||0||0||0||1||.287|
|Scooter Gennett, 2B||4||1||1||0||0||0||3||.321|
|Juan Francisco, 1B||3||0||1||0||1||1||3||.236|
|Tom Gorzelanny, P||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.059|
|a-Yuniesky Betancourt, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.211|
|Martin Maldonado, C||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.174|
|a-hit into fielder's choice for Thornburg in the 7th|
|SH - Tom Gorzelanny (1)|
|SB - Carlos Gomez (31, 2nd base off Morton/Martin)|
|CS - Jean Segura (10, 2nd base by Morton/Martin)|
|Team LOB - 10|
|DP - Gorzelanny-Francisco|
|E - Burke Badenhop (1, Throwing)|
|Tom Gorzelanny (L,3-6)||5.1||9||4||4||1||5||0||3.80|
|Pitches-Strikes - Tom Gorzelanny 99-72, Tyler Thornburg 2-2, Burke Badenhop 11-8, Mike Gonzalez 12-8, John Axford 12-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Tom Gorzelanny 3-7, Mike Gonzalez 2-0, John Axford 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Tom Gorzelanny 25, Tyler Thornburg 2, Burke Badenhop 4, Mike Gonzalez 3, John Axford 3|
|Josh Harrison, 2B||4||3||3||1||0||0||0||.284|
|Clint Barmes, SS||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.220|
|Jordy Mercer, SS-2B||3||1||2||1||1||1||0||.278|
|Andrew McCutchen, CF||4||1||2||1||0||1||3||.323|
|Marlon Byrd, RF||4||1||1||3||0||2||2||.284|
|Pedro Alvarez, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||1||2||.238|
|Gaby Sanchez, 1B||4||0||3||1||0||0||0||.250|
|Russell Martin, C||4||0||1||0||0||0||2||.241|
|Jose Tabata, LF||3||1||1||0||0||0||1||.270|
|Felix Pie, LF||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.400|
|Charlie Morton, P||3||0||0||0||0||1||3||.111|
|a-Andrew Lambo, PH||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.211|
|a-struck out for Mazzaro in the 8th|
|2B - Jordy Mercer (16, Gorzelanny)|
|3B - Jose Tabata (3, Gorzelanny)|
|HR - Marlon Byrd (22, Badenhop)|
|RBI - Josh Harrison (11), Jordy Mercer (22), Andrew McCutchen (74), Marlon Byrd 3 (74), Gaby Sanchez (34)|
|2-OUT RBI - Gaby Sanchez (13)|
|SB - Andrew McCutchen (27, 2nd base off Gorzelanny/Lucroy)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|E - Clint Barmes (10, Throwing), Russell Martin (2, Throwing)|
|Charlie Morton (W,6-3)||6.2||5||1||0||3||2||0||3.14|
|Vin Mazzaro (H,5)||1.1||2||0||0||0||1||0||2.44|
|HBP - Ramirez (by Charlie Morton)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Charlie Morton 90-54, Vin Mazzaro 20-16, Jared Hughes 13-8|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Charlie Morton 11-6, Vin Mazzaro 1-3, Jared Hughes 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Charlie Morton 28, Vin Mazzaro 7, Jared Hughes 3|
|Attendance - 20634|
|Game Time - 2:57|
|Temperature - 73|
|Umpires - Home - Gerry Davis, First Base - Dan Iassogna, Second Base - Brian Knight, Third Base - Mark Carlson|