MLB: Pirates pursue surprising sweep of first-place Brewers
In what surely seemed improbable coming into the series, the Pittsburgh Pirates will go for a three-game sweep of the visiting Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.
Before the set between the National League Central rivals started on Tuesday, the last-place Pirates had lost seven consecutive games, while the first-place Brewers were 7-2 since the All-Star break. However, Pittsburgh came from behind in the first two games of the series, 5-3 on Tuesday and 8-7 in a walk-off on Wednesday.
“This is just kind of how the season has been, just back and forth and just answering punches,” Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds, who hit the winning homer leading off the bottom of the ninth on Wednesday, told AT&T Sportsnet.
“Just no quit. Situational hitting. Playing defense. Pitching. Just all of it, really.”
That kind of doggedness has worked at times for Pittsburgh, but not most of the time. It has in this matchup.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, is looking to shake off back-to-back disappointing results.
“The season provides challenges, and the games have provided challenges for us the past two nights,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “We’ve got to get back at it (Thursday).”
Both teams are working through their closer situation.
On Monday, Milwaukee traded Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres with the idea of elevating Devin Williams from setup man to the ninth-inning role. However, Williams gave up Reynolds’ blast on Wednesday to take the loss after not being scored on in 30 consecutive outings dating back to mid-May.
“I think Devin’s in a good place,” Counsell said. “No concerns.”
On Wednesday, Pittsburgh put All-Star closer David Bednar on the injured list because of back pain. A day earlier, in a save situation, the Pirates instead used Wil Crowe in the ninth inning, and manager Derek Shelton revealed that Bednar had a lower back issue.
Crowe pitched the final 1 1/3 innings on Wednesday for the win.
In the series finale, Milwaukee right-hander Brandon Woodruff (9-3, 3.55 ERA) is slated to oppose Pittsburgh right-hander Zach Thompson (3-8, 5.09).
Woodruff is coming off a win Friday at Boston, where he gave up one run and four hits in 6 1/3 innings, with nine strikeouts and two walks. He blanked the Red Sox on one hit through five innings.
“From the second on, I was just able to get ahead. That’s the biggest thing,” Woodruff said. “If I can just get ahead and mix it up a little bit … typically it leads to a good night.”
Since coming off the IL in late June, Woodruff is 4-0 with a 2.06 ERA in six starts.
Woodruff is 6-2 with a 3.78 ERA in 14 career games against Pittsburgh, 12 of them starts.
Thompson originally was projected to start Wednesday, but he was pushed back a day as the Pirates went with a bullpen game. He is looking to break out of a rough patch. Thompson has given up seven runs in each of his past two starts following a stretch in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer in 10 of 11 starts.
On July 28, the Philadelphia Phillies strafed him for seven runs on 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked none and fanned four.
Against the Brewers, Thompson is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in three career starts, all of them this season. He gave up six runs in four innings on April 18 in a 6-1 loss, then yielded two runs in 4 2/3 innings on both July 3 and July 9, losing the former game and taking a no-decision in the latter.
–Field Level Media