MILWAUKEE -- The fortunes of the Pirates and the Brewers have changed in the big picture. But the inset remains the same: Even as National League Central also-rans, the Brewers own the contending Bucs, particularly in Miller Park. For the latest evidence, the Crew dealt the Pirates another sound defeat on Wednesday, 9-4, behind Jonathan Lucroy's three RBIs and two each by Adam Lind and Scooter Gennett.
"We kept them off the board only in two innings tonight," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said about a 15-hit Milwaukee attack begun against Jeff Locke and continued against his relief. "That makes it more challenging. Locke's command was come and go throughout the game."
Locke was roughed up for nine hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings, neutralizing the heroics of Aramis Ramirez, the onetime Brewers third baseman who continued to make himself at home in his former home by driving in four runs, three on his second homer in as many days. The Pirates remain six games behind the Cardinals in the NL Central as St. Louis lost to the Nationals on Wednesday.
Zach Davies had a perhaps predictable Major League debut for the Brewers. The 22-year-old right-hander kept the Pirates hitless through three innings, but ran into trouble the second time through their order and wound up allowing four runs in 4 1/3 innings. Since Davies did not go the requisite five innings, Jeremy Jeffress, who did not allow a hit in working the seventh and eighth innings, was awarded the victory by the official scorer's decision.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Two-out knocks: Gennett came off the Brewers' bench in the seventh inning to deliver a pair of critical insurance runs against flame-throwing Pirates reliever Arquimedes Caminero. Including Gennett's two-run single in the seventh inning and Lucroy's go-ahead two-run single in the fourth, the Brewers had eight two-out hits and five two-out RBIs.
"I just think it's a product of good at-bats," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "Two outs, two strikes, putting the ball in play. I think we're doing a really good job of that right now. Just kind of extending at-bats. Every night games are won with two-out hits."
No Lock(e)down inning: The Bucs were desperate for a lockdown bottom of the fourth after Ramirez's three-run homer in the top had caught the Brewers at 3. Locke couldn't do it, despite facing the bottom third of Milwaukee's lineup, eventually surrendering the tie on Lucroy's two-out, two-run single. Just as big a hit came from Davies, who smacked Locke's changeup for a two-out single that sparked the rally. More >
"Davies is a good athlete. As a pitcher, you've got nothing to lose -- you go up there, take a swing and see what happens," Locke said. "But I've got to find a way to finish that inning, especially after we put some runs up and there's new life in the dugout. You can't go out there and give the runs back."
Another quick strike: For the second straight night, the Brewers scored their first run before making their first out. Jean Segura led off the bottom of the first inning with a double and scored on Lucroy's single. Two batters later, Khris Davis made it 2-0 with a run-scoring double.
"It might look like an American Legion game, but both are Major League pitchers." -- Hurdle, on boyish-looking and "lightweight" starting pitchers Locke and Davies
"I felt comfortable out there. I had a little nerves in the beginning, but at the same time I thought, 'That's not going to help you if you go out there and you're all over the place.' I tried to relax and settle in." -- Davies, on his debut
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The Pirates, who consider "four" their magic number on offense, lost consecutive games when scoring four runs for the first time this season; overall, they are still 61-12 with four-plus runs.
Davies was the 29th starting pitcher this season to face the Pirates for the first time -- 22 percent of their 131-game schedule -- and they have pitched to a collective ERA of 4.39, allowing 161 hits and 80 runs in 163 2/3 innings.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Francisco Liriano (9-6, 3.28 ERA) will put his remarkable streak -- the Bucs have won his last 11 starts, while he has gone 5-0 -- on the line in the 7:20 p.m. ET finale of the series on Thursday at Miller Park.
Brewers:Taylor Jungmann (8-5, 2.48 ERA) is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his two starts this season against the Pirates, and he will aim for a third gem when the teams finish their three-game series on Thursday. His first pitch is scheduled for 6:20 p.m. CT -- a nod to the Brewers' flagship radio station, 620 WTMJ.