Brewers win 17th in a row over Bucs

Brewers win 17th in a row over Bucs

PITTSBURGH -- It wasn't too long ago that the Brewers couldn't seem to win a game at PNC Park. Now it feels like they can't lose to the Pirates, period.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy snapped his season-long slump with two walks, three hits and four RBIs, and starter Jeff Suppan pitched just well enough on an ugly night for baseball as the Brewers won their 17th straight game over the Pirates, 8-5.

It is the longest winning streak for one big league team over another in nearly four decades. The last team to beat another in more than 17 straight games was the Baltimore Orioles, who won 23 in a row over the expansion Kansas City Royals from 1969-70.

For Brewers manager Ken Macha, this is old hat. His A's beat the Mariners 15 straight times in 2006.

"It was, like, uncanny," Macha said. "For the games I've been here for [between the Brewers and Pirates] up until tonight, it's been real tight. The Seattle-Oakland thing, I don't think there were too many tight games.

"So what do I think of that?" he added. "We're going to Cincinnati."

Others had more to say, including Brewers infielder Craig Counsell, whose two-out, two-run double in the eighth inning provided some important insurance runs. He was a part of the last team to beat another in 16 straight games, the Diamondbacks, who owned the Reds from May 2001 to August 2003.

"I didn't even realize it when it was going on," Counsell said. "It's just one of those weird things."

Especially weird given the Brewers' previous struggles against the Pirates. Before going 14-1 against them last season, the Brewers were 52-67 against the Pirates from 2001-07, including 20-42 at PNC Park.

"I remember those days," said Carlos Villanueva, who notched his third save as the Brewers rested Trevor Hoffman. "We'll keep riding it as long as we can. ... It has to do with luck, too. I remember the days when we couldn't get a win here, when we came in and it was an automatic series loss. We're playing better now, but we know they want to beat us real bad."

Added Hardy, simply: "We're a better team now."

The Brewers have not lost to Pittsburgh since May 22 of last season and have outscored the Pirates, 111-49, during the streak. Hardy contributed four of those runs with an RBI single in the second inning and an RBI double in the fourth against Pirates starter Ian Snell (1-4), plus a two-run double in the sixth against reliever Jesse Chavez. Hardy also worked the first of his two walks in the eighth, when Counsell broke the game open with a two-run double that extended the Brewers' lead to five runs.

Hardy's first two hits and Counsell's double all came with two outs.

"Those are essentially back-breakers for the other team and pick-me-ups for our side," Macha said.

"I think that's true," Counsell said. "They're close to getting out of the inning right there, and that felt like a game where you kept needing to score runs."

Tuesday's game was not one of more memorable Brewers-Pirates clashes.

"Three hours and [35] minutes. I wouldn't call that a well-pitched game," Macha said.

Brewers hitters drew 10 walks, and the way Macha figured it, they translated to five runs. Two of those baserunners scored, two more were eliminated on fielder's choice grounders before the hitter who reached on that play scored, and Rickie Weeks worked a pass with the bases loaded in the sixth inning that forced in a run.

Brewers pitchers, meanwhile, issued seven walks, including two apiece by relievers Seth McClung and Mitch Stetter. The teams combined to throw 72 pitches in a long sixth inning, and 28 batters went to three-ball counts in the game.

It didn't help that a steady drizzle began falling about five minutes before the first pitch. It then rained all night.

"With the conditions the way they were, it was, 'Get out there and throw as many strikes as you can,'" said Suppan, who improved to 2-2 with his second straight win.

He navigated a soggy mound and threw 65 of his 108 pitches for strikes, allowing three runs on five hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. Suppan, who was dogged by a right elbow injury beginning in June of last season, had not thrown that many pitches in a game since a 110-pitch win over the Cardinals on May 11, 2008.

He continued a hot streak Tuesday in the cold weather. Since surrendering 11 runs in 7 2/3 innings over his first two starts, both losses, Suppan has gone 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in four games.

Still, Suppan did not pitch a clean inning until the fifth. Freddy Sanchez gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a solo homer, and Jason Jaramillo cut the Brewers' lead to 3-2 with an RBI single in the fourth. The Pirates' other run against Suppan scored in the sixth inning, when Andy LaRoche singled and advanced all the way to third base when catcher Jason Kendall couldn't locate Suppan's wild pitch. Ramon Vazquez followed with a sacrifice fly that made it 6-3 before Counsell's hit provided some insurance.

"[Suppan] gave us enough, anyway," Macha said.

The Brewers will get to sit on their winning streak for a while. They don't play the Pirates again until July 20-22 at PNC Park.

After the game, the Pirates' clubhouse was quiet.

"Not much you can do, not much you can say," Sanchez said. "They've had our number and you try to put that in the past, but then they've beat us every time this year. You can't say or do much about it, but just try to get them the next time."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.