Marlon Byrd didn’t have the game-winning hit or even the knockout blow, really, when the Pirates beat the Brewers Wednesday. But, the Pirates’ newest addition to the starting lineup made the most noise with a three-run home run over the center field fence and into the bushes that broke open a 4-1 ballgame in the bottom of the seventh.
“It was one of those things, you come to a new team, new stadium, new fans, new everything, and it’s like the first day of school for you at a new school and you want to feel accepted,” Byrd said. ‘I felt accepted all day long.”
Byrd made it easy for Pirates fans to accept him with his 22nd home run of the 2013 season, and his first in a Pirate uniform in the first game he donned a Pirate uniform.
“I’m with the Pittsburgh Pirates and we’re fighting to get to the playoffs, so I just looked around, started smiling, looked down, saw the uniform and everything, ” Byrd said. “I’m taking it all in.”
Byrd went 1-for-4 in his debut with the three-run home run and a pair of strikeouts–one of which concluded a 14-pitch at-bat. Manager Clint Hurdle talked the past two days about Byrd’s ability to be a “grinder”, but he didn’t expect Byrd to grind out his 14-pitch at-bat in the fourth against Brewers starter Tom Gorzelanny.
“I didn’t have that, but you know he got things,” Hurdle said. “A professional hitter, Marlon is, and you’re looking for a productive at-bat late in the game like that. And he rides a ball out into dead-center field here so a very nice welcoming for him.”
The Pirates (77-55) broke their three-game losing streak with a final score of 7-1, and took their first lead in a game since last Friday when Andrew McCutchen singled to left to score Josh Harrison from second.
Harrison scored each time he reached base, and finished 3-for-4 out of the lead-off spot. Hurdle gave him the start because of his numbers against left-handers, and Harrison rewarded his faith.
“You’ve got the catalyst at the top of the order that we wanted to get Harrison in play against the left-hander,” Hurdle said. “He gave us the at-bats we were looking for.”
Following his 3-for-4 night, Harrison is now 14-for-30 against southpaws in 2013 with a batting average of .467.
Gorzelanny kept the Pirates down in the second and third innings, but the Bucs got a run after McCutchen singled to lead off the bottom of the fourth, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout by Pedro Alvarez, and scored on a single from Gaby Sanchez.
Pittsburgh tacked on two more in the fifth when Jose Tabata led off with a triple to right field and scored on a single by Harrison. Harrison then scored on a double to right from Jordy Mercer to put the Bucs up 4-0 and chase Gorzelanny (3-6) from the game.
The former Bucco finished after five and one-third innings and allowed four runs on nine hits and a walk while striking out five.
Meanwhile, Charlie Morton shut the Brewers out for six innings after Milwaukee hung five runs on Tuesday’s starter Jeff Locke. Through six, Morton allowed just four hits, walked a batter, and hit another, but prevented any Brewer from advancing past second base.
But Morton ran into a challenge in the seventh when Scooter Gennett singled and Juan Francisco walked. With one out and Yuniesky Betancourt pinch-hitting for reliever Michael Gonzalez, Russell Martin made a snap throw to first base to try to nab Francisco, but Sanchez couldn’t get back to the bag and the ball went into right field to score the Brewers’ only run.
After Betancourt reached on a fielder’s choice and Aoki walked, Morton’s night was done as Hurdle pulled him in favor of Vin Mazzaro. Mazzaro prevented any more damage, though, as he got Jean Segura to line out to second with men at first and third.
“I didn’t really feel like it was getting out of hand, I didn’t feel like we were in trouble,” Morton said. “The bullpen has been unbelievable so I never really felt like my back was against the ropes or anything was going to go bad.”
Morton ended his day after six and two-thirds, and allowed just one unearned run on five hits and three walks.
“I didn’t really feel like I was very good about first-pitch strikes tonight but I got some timely outs, got plays behind me,” Morton said.
Despite any misgivings Morton may have had regarded his start, Ground Ball Chuck threw down his fifth straight performance in which he pitched at least six innings and allowed less than two runs to score.
“You see really good rhythm and tempo on the mound,” Hurdle said. “He’s really working well, good and efficient.”
Byrd followed with his three-run bomb to seal the deal on Morton’s sixth win of the season.
Mazzaro ran into trouble in the eighth by loading the bases with one out, but induced flyouts from Gennett and Francisco to end the frame. Jared Hughes pitched a perfect ninth to end the game.
With the win, the Pirates now run their record to 10-5 on the season against the Brewers and marks the first time the Pirates will win the season series against Milwaukee for the first time since 2006. But, the focus remains as it has all season.
“I think one thing that we’re doing well this year is not really worrying about streaks against certain teams. I think it’s needless information because we’re not the same team as we were the year before or the year before that,” Morton said. “If it’s the Brewers it’s the Brewers, so be it. This is a different year anyway.”