Chris Stewart Helps Pirates Snap Seven Game Losing Streak Against Brewers

PITTSBURGH — The Pirates are momentarily four games back of the rain-delayed Cardinals after finally burying the hatchet and beating those pesky Milwaukee Brewers on a beautiful Friday night at PNC Park. One player in particular, Chris Stewart, had a major role in this one, and he continues to be an important part of this 2015 campaign for the Bucs.

Stewart was able to come up with two key hits for the Pirates, and he finished with a 3-for-4 night at the plate.

With the bases loaded in the fourth, following a Jordy Mercer infield single to finally crack Brewers’ starter Jimmy Nelson, Stewart did was he does best – put the ball in play. He was able to place a Nelson mistake through the hole on the left side of the infield to score two and give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.

In the sixth inning, Stewart came up with runners on first and second to do the same thing on an inside fastball. He was able to turn on the pitch and put it into left field underneath a diving Elian Herrera to tack another run on the board.

“He’s able to give you that kind of game from time to time,” Hurdle said after the game. “He’s on base three times. He drives in three runs. He drops a bunt single late to get on base and possibly stretch it out … He’s turned himself into a very professional major league player.”

Not only did Stewart contribute offensively, he showed off his arm — picking Logan Schafer off of first base in the seventh.

Stewart was a career .214 batter for six different teams before being acquired from the Yankees in December of 2013 for Class-A pitcher Kyle Haynes. He was coming off of a year where he started 97 games for the Yankees, but he was only able to hit .211 with a .566 OPS. The Pirates brought him in specifically to be a backup to the already established Russell Martin and have him provide a solid defensive catching option off of the bench.

Stewart was able to provide much more than defense for the Pirates in 2014, batting .294 last season. This year, he has matched that average.

Stewart and regular Francisco Cervelli have been the main duo for the best hitting catching team in the majors. Pirate catchers have a combined batting average of .302 this season, good for best in the league. San Francisco catchers, led by Buster Posey, come in second at .292.

Still, Chris Stewart’s defense is what drives him.

“My main goal is to go out there and help the pitcher keep runs from scoring,” Stewart responded after being asked if his offense or defense was more important to him. “If you don’t let the other team score any runs, you usually come away with a win. That’s always my goal.”

The Pirates are now 24-9 in Stewart’s 33 starts this season.

“My job is to get in there and help the team get a win,” Stewart said. “I’m always ready. Last night, it was a pinch-hit situation. I’m ready whenever my name gets called.”

Beside Stewart’s two hits against Jimmy Nelson, the Bucs were only able to get two other hits against the Brewers’ right-hander.

Nelson has been a thorn in the Pirates’ side all season, going 4-1 with a 1.72 ERA against the Bucs before tonight. In comparison, he has gone 7-10 against the rest of league with a 4.34 ERA.

Tonight, it took the Pirates until the fourth inning to get the ball out of the infield. Nelson induced nine straight groundballs before Josh Harrison lined a pitch to center field. Walks by Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker led to the Mercer and Stewart base hits – giving the Pirates their first lead of the game. They never looked back.

Interestingly, it was Jordy Mercer’s two at-bats that may have set the tone for Nelson’s early departure. In Nelson’s four wins against the Pirates, he went 7, 6, 6.1, and 7 innings, respectively. It was imperative for the Pirates to get him out of the game early, and Mercer battled through two 8-pitch at-bats in the second and fourth innings.

“That’s an inning that you are taking from the other pitcher,” Hurdle said about Mercer’s two at-bats. “One guy is taking an inning away.”

Jordy Mercer said of his at-bats: “That’s the Pirate way of winning.”

“That’s what we do,” Mercer said. “We work the pitcher and continue to have him throw pitches. I think he was at 100 through five. That’s what we do. He wears down, and we come up with a couple big hits.”

“We had some great at-bats against him. Hits or not, or walks or not, I think we had some great at-bats against him. That elevated his pitch count.”

Nelson averaged 3.73 pitchers per plate appearance before tonight’s start, and the Bucs were able to inflate that to 4.29 pitches per batter in his 5+ innings.

On the flip side, Charlie Morton recovered from a tough first inning to not allow a hit after a leadoff single in the second. Morton ended up completing six innings with 11 ground ball outs.

“His fastball location picked up,” Hurdle said about Morton. “We got ambushed early. His fastball went up a couple times early for the double and homer. As the game went on, the sinker command got sharper. Three double plays were a big part of his success tonight.”

Left-handed batters have a .280 average and .827 OPS against Morton, but he was able to face only one over the minimum from the second through the sixth against this lefty heavy lineup.

The rest of the story is predictable – Tony Watson and Mark Melancon wrapped things up and put a bow on it, ended the Pirates’ seven-game losing streak against the Brewers. Their last win against them was on June 10th.

Chip away. Get a starter out early. Get a few clutch hits. Close it down with great relievers. Again, I think Jordy Mercer said it best. “That’s the Pirate way of winning.”

  • The choice on whether to resign Stewart in view of the availability of Diaz will be one of the most interesting and difficult decisions which NH will have to make this upcoming off season. I am not sure which way I lean on this, but probably towards resigning Stewart if he’ll take a one year deal.

  • Cubbies still can catch the Bucs!

  • Obviously catching Cole contributes to that record. Stewie is 15-4 catching Cole starts, 3-0 with Frankie, 3-1 with Locke, 1-0 with AJ and Happ, 1-2 with Morton and 0-2 with Worley.

    Caminero is beginning to look to me like Jose Veras in that you only need one batter to see if “good” or “bad” Caminero has showed up that day. Someone else should always be heating up in pen when Cam enters the game.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m seeing a 103 max exit velo with Stewart’s name attached to it on the BaseballSavant site. When did that happen?

  • Still time to catch St; Louis. (as long as we don’t use Dizzy Lizzy in relief) 🙂
    Just need to keep on winning.