MILWAUKEE -- It was Andrew McCutchen 3, Milwaukee Brewers 2 in 10 innings at Miller Park.
McCutchen delivered three run-scoring hits to account for every Pirates run in a 3-2 win over the Brewers on Thursday, bookending the night with a solo home run in the first inning and a tiebreaking two-out single in the 10th. McCutchen's 10th-inning hit off Brewers reliever Carlos Torres scored John Jaso, who sparked Pittsburgh's winning rally with a pinch-hit single.
"I'm in a good spot," McCutchen said. "Even when I'm behind in the count, I know I can still battle and get the job done. I was able to do that today. There's 30-something games left, and I'm just trying to finish them strong."
The Pirates pulled to within 2 1/2 games of the Cardinals for the National League's second Wild Card by winning for only the 18th time in their last 82 games at Miller Park. The Brewers had won each of the previous nine meetings between the teams in this stadium.
Pirates starter Chad Kuhl controlled the game for six-plus innings, limiting the Brewers to two hits and no runs before abruptly running into trouble with one out in the seventh. Chris Carter doubled before Kirk Nieuwenhuis smashed a tying, two-run home run to the bleachers in right field. When Orlando Arcia followed with another double, Kuhl's stellar start was suddenly over.
"Their guy pitched a heck of a game," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We had very little going against him, and three hitters kind of changed it. We were fortunate to tie the game off of him, the way he was cruising."
The Brewers put the winning run in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth, but Antonio Bastardo preserved the 2-2 tie and was rewarded with the win. Tony Watson logged his eighth save.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED 'Cutch him if you can: McCutchen notched his sixth multi-hit game since Aug. 12 on Thursday, doing so within his first two trips to the plate. With a lofty launch angle of 39 degrees, he skied his 18th homer of the season to the left-field bleachers. With his RBI singles in the third and 10th, McCutchen improved to 12 for his last 21 with runners in scoring position. Since his brief benching at the outset of August, McCutchen has responded by batting .303 with a .425 on-base percentage and three homers.
"It was a really, really good game for him offensively tonight throughout the night," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Three RBIs on the night -- an excellent night for him, and a good night for him to have and for us."
New ballgame: Nieuwenhuis grounded out with runners at the corners in the fourth inning, and that stood as Milwaukee's only real threat until the center fielder stepped to the plate again in the seventh. With Carter aboard, Nieuwenhuis jumped a first-pitch slider and hit it 111 mph off the bat, 463 feet through the air, according to Statcast™, for a tying, two-run homer. According to Statcast™ data, it was the second-longest homer by a Brewer this season (to Carter's 465-footer in Seattle on Friday) and the second-longest at Miller Park this season (to a 466-foot blast by the Cardinals' Matt Holliday on May 3).
"He had really good movement on all of his pitches, really," Nieuwenhuis said of Kuhl. "His two-seamer really took off. His slider, he was throwing hard. His changeup was good, too. He had three 'plus' pitches, for sure. I thought he threw really well all night. He was attacking the zone. I was talking to [Ryan Braun], and it seems like we've run into quite a few good, young pitchers. He really didn't give us much."
Kuhl customer: Through six innings, it appeared that the Brewers wouldn't be able to touch Kuhl, who had only allowed two hits until that point. Kuhl then threw two flat sliders in succession -- the first which turned into Carter's double and the second which Nieuwenhuis clobbered. After not striking out a batter over six innings in his last start, Kuhl fanned five on the night while also remaining efficient, retiring 11 Brewers in three pitches or fewer.
"It was another really good outing," Hurdle said. "That's the deepest he's been in a game. It was fun to watch. ...The sinker worked, his changeup and slider worked until the seventh inning. He had a couple flat sliders, and he paid for it. It shows you the fine line between cruising and all of a sudden it's a tie game and then there's a runner on second."
Arcia laced a one-out double just two pitches after Nieuwenhuis' homer to end the night for Kuhl, who was suddenly in danger to pick up the loss. Felipe Rivero, however, escaped the jam. Neftali Feliz struck out the side in the eighth, Bastardo popped Manny Pina out to leave the winning run at second in the ninth and Watson worked efficiently for the save.
"You just have to have faith in the bullpen and know that we are more than capable of scoring a run and pulling it out," Kuhl said. "You wish it didn't happen that way, but it's just one bad pitch. You can't let it ruin your night." More >
Jhan bright spot for Brewers: With Peralta out of the game after five innings and 100 pitches, Counsell used right-hander Jhan Marinez for two innings of perfect relief and would have asked for more had the Brewers not rallied in the seventh to reset the game. Marinez has delivered multiple innings in three of his last five outings.
"He's had a couple appearances like that where he's [dealing] quick outs," Counsell said. "Fortunately we scored, but he was going to go out for a third inning. When his sinker is moving a lot, you see those swings, where he's starting that ball in the middle of the plate and it's really running on right-handers' hands."
"Some of the Pittsburgh people asked me that when I was there, and I would never say that there is anything wrong with that guy. I know he hasn't had the great year that he normally has, but he's a force. There's no question." -- Counsell, on McCutchen's subpar season
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the fifth, the Pirates challenged the call that Starling Marte was out attempting to steal second base. Replay review showed his hand reached the bag before Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett applied the tag and the call was overturned.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Ryan Vogelsong takes the mound for the Pirates in the second game of the series at 8:10 p.m. ET on Friday. In his four starts since coming off the DL (left eye) on Aug. 4, Vogelsong has posted a 2.28 ERA.
Brewers:Matt Garza will be on the mound when the Brewers continue their series against the Pirates at 7:10 p.m. CT on Friday. Garza is 3-4 with a 4.37 ERA in 11 career starts against the Bucs, including 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two games this season.