MILWAUKEE -- In a game of big innings, it was the Pirates who hung the last crooked number on the scoreboard Saturday night.
Gregory Polanco came off the bench to hit a tiebreaking, three-run double in the sixth for a 9-6 win over the Brewers at Miller Park, where Pirates starter Jameson Taillon was not the only pitcher to struggle. He surrendered five earned runs in three innings for his worst start this season, but six different Pirates batters drove in at least one run as Pittsburgh pulled to within 1 1/2 games of St. Louis in the race for the second National League Wild Card.
"It wasn't a sharp outing for him," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's the beautiful thing about the big leagues. He's been pretty sharp since he's been here and has picked us up. ... Tonight, the guys were able to pick him up."
For the Brewers, third baseman Hernan Perez homered twice and drove in four runs, and relief pitcher Tyler Cravy homered for his first Major League hit to tie a wild game at 6-6 in the fourth.
The Pirates won with a pair of big innings. They erased Taillon's early 5-1 deficit by scoring five runs in the fourth inning against Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson. Then, after Cravy's home run tied the game, they pushed ahead again in the decisive sixth. With two on and one out, Brewers reliever Blaine Boyer intentionally walked Andrew McCutchen to load the bases for pinch-hitter Polanco, who bucked a .138 average in 61 previous plate appearances at Miller Park to line a go-ahead double to the right-center-field wall.
"It's McCutchen with the infield in or Polanco in a double-play situation," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "There's not a great choice there."
Juan Nicasio and Neftali Feliz held Milwaukee scoreless over the final four innings, Feliz avoiding a scare in the ninth, as Pittsburgh matched a season high by winning its seventh consecutive road game.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Bucs battle back: Trailing 5-1, Pittsburgh plated five runs on four hits in the fourth off Nelson to take a 6-5 lead. After Adam Frazier reached on a one-out single, Nelson walked Jordy Mercer and Eric Fryer to load the bases. Pinch-hitter John Jaso followed with a single that scored a run. Josh Harrison then delivered a two-run single to pull the Pirates to within 5-4. Pittsburgh tied the game on an RBI ground out by Josh Bell and took the lead on a two-out, run-scoring infield single by McCutchen.
"That gave us a shot in the arm," Hurdle said. "The other guys on offense picked some things up. Harrison had an RBI. McCutchen had an RBI. Bell grounded out but got an RBI. We had some productive outs in the inning and were able to put up five. That was really cool. Just good at-bats."
Nelson recorded two outs on 42 pitches in the inning before manager Craig Counsell tapped the bullpen.
"I don't know what to say. It's one of those frustrating things," Nelson said. "I feel like this has been happening too much this season."
(Relief) pitchers who rake: Miller Park had fallen silent after the Pirates' seemingly endless rally in the top of the fourth, but that changed in the bottom of the inning when Cravy connected against Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke with a home run. The leadoff shot, which left Cravy's bat at 100.4 mph and sailed 409 feet, according to Statcast™, was the first home run by a Brewers relief pitcher since Brooks Kieschnick hit three such homers in 2003, and only the second in the Majors for a reliever this season.
"I was a little surprised by it," Cravy said. More >
Rare hiccup: Taillon's run of eight consecutive quality starts came to an end Saturday, as the right-hander set career worsts by allowing five runs over three innings. Perez, who is now 5-for-7 with three home runs against Taillon, hit a three-run blast in Milwaukee's four-run first and a solo shot in the third.
"I'm not happy with how I pitched, but up here is not like Triple-A, where you are selfish and want your line to be good," Taillon said. "We got a win, and they are starting to really matter. This is one of the more exciting times after a bad start for me." More >
Last chance: The Brewers made it interesting in the ninth, when Jonathan Villar's single and Scooter Gennett's two-out walk brought Ryan Braun to the plate, representing the tying run. Braun hit an infield chopper and was called out on a close play at first base that immediately drew a challenge from Counsell. After a review of two minutes and four seconds, the call stood, and the game was over.
"I thought it was really close," Counsell said. "It looked like it's one of those where the ball was in the glove but not touching the back of the glove. I wouldn't have been surprised either way."
"It's really tough. When you give your pitcher a lead like 5-1 in the fourth, we feel like, 'We've got this game.' But things turned around quickly. They went up by one run, and when Cravy tied the game with a homer, I thought in that moment, 'We are going to win this game.' Sometimes, that happens." -- Perez, reflecting on a tough loss
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Brewers won an earlier challenge in the seventh after Milwaukee reliever Brent Suter made a snap throw to first base. Rodriguez, the runner there, was called safe by umpire Dan Iassogna, but Counsell challenged and won. Suter went on to pitch the first of three scoreless innings.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates:Ivan Nova will look to continue his run of success since joining Pittsburgh when he pitches against the Brewers on Sunday. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 3.20 ERA in four starts since being traded from the Yankees to the Pirates on Aug. 1.
Brewers:Chase Anderson is 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA over his last six starts. He'll put that record on the line Sunday in the teams' 1:10 p.m. CT series finale.