Five-run frame indicative of relentless Pirates

Five-run frame indicative of relentless Pirates

PITTSBURGH -- Boiled down to its simplest form, the goal of the Pirates' lineup is to keep the line moving with one productive at-bat after another.

In the third inning of Sunday's game at PNC Park, the Bucs kept the line moving ... and moving ... and moving ... and rode it to a five-run frame that keyed their 9-3 win over the Brewers.

"Take what is given to you," manager Clint Hurdle said. "If nothing's there, you pass the baton and you keep moving and you keep scratching and clawing."

The Pirates scratched and clawed their way to the five runs, all of them with one out. Andrew McCutchen grounded out, then the next eight Pittsburgh hitters reached safely.

There has been some concern around Pittsburgh about the Pirates' struggles with runners in scoring position and their bloated left-on-base totals. Sure, the club can get men on base, but can it drive them in? The Bucs lead the Major Leagues with a .385 on-base percentage. Their .729 OPS with runners in scoring position is 15th in the Majors, almost exactly league-average. The reason they're stranding so many runners, in a sense, is that they're putting so many men on in the first place.

Joyce discusses the Pirates' win

"When you put a lot of runners on base and you're average, it seems like you are leaving a ton of players on base," general manager Neal Huntington said. "I'd much rather be leaving a lot of guys on base and be average than be above-average [with runners in scoring position] and not have a lot of baserunners."

The Pirates checked both boxes in the third inning on Sunday.

David Freese walked. Matt Joyce moved him up with an infield single. Francisco Cervelli knocked a single to right-center, loading the bases. Up came Gregory Polanco with the bases loaded.

Polanco chopped a single to left field, driving in one run. Josh Harrison hit an RBI single to center. Brewers shortstop Jonathan Villar couldn't reel in Jordy Mercer's grounder, bringing home Cervelli and Polanco.

"Any time at this level mistakes are made, the ability to capitalize is what separates teams from first, second, third, fourth, fifth place," Hurdle said. "Any time you get extra outs, those are the opportunities you want to capitalize on to create more separation."

Juan Nicasio loaded the bases with a bunt single, and John Jaso's single to right drove in the final run of the inning.

By the time it was over, the Pirates had piled up five runs on six hits, a walk and a costly error by Villar. They also had, in a way, continued to validate their offensive philosophy, one predicated on putting the ball in play and pressuring the opposing pitcher and defense.

"It was fun," Polanco said. "You keep doing that, keep pushing together and we're going to get some runs."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.