That offense produced an eighth inning only half as big as the Pirates' eight-run sixth less than 24 hours earlier, but it was enough for the Brewers to put Saturday's game away. Matt Garza pitched six innings to win back-to-back starts for the first time this season, Lyle Overbay's first RBIs on the road since April gave the Brewers their first lead and Ryan Braun delivered a two-run double to cap the game-breaking eighth.
A clinic on clean baseball it was not, with the Pirates committing five errors, three before starter Edinson Volquez threw his second pitch to the game's second batter, and Garza issuing five walks over six hard-fought. But the Brewers beat the Pirates for the ninth time in 12 meetings this season and maintained a five-game lead over St. Louis in the National League Central.
Milwaukee has won or split each of its last five series, a streak Yovani Gallardo will try to keep alive on Sunday afternoon.
"Some days you don't have your best stuff and you just keep going," Garza said. "I've been dealing with a lot of bloop singles, especially here in Pittsburgh, so just keep going and not make too big a deal about it."
Asked about following Friday's blowout loss with a six-run victory, Garza said, "I think just us answering back. We really don't pay attention to how many runs we lose by; it's still a loss. We just come back and answer back and try to get that 'W' again. Keep going."
Coming off 6 1/3 shutout innings in a win over the Twins, Garza surrendered three runs on six hits in six innings, walking five batters and striking out only one while marking the seventh time in his last eight starts he'd allowed at least three earned runs.
Garza found big outs when he needed them, stranding runners in scoring position in the second and third innings, and leaving runners on base in every frame but the fourth. He was in danger of seeing a 4-2 lead slip away when the first two Pirates batters reached safely in the sixth inning, but Garza induced a run-scoring double play from Jordy Mercer and escaped with a one-run lead.
Reliever Rob Wooten worked around a leadoff hit in a scoreless seventh inning before the Brewers pulled away in the eighth against Pirates relievers Justin Wilson and Jeanmar Gomez. Wilson created his own trouble by walking Khris Davis and Scooter Gennett with one out, and hitting Mark Reynolds with a pitch.
The rally ensured Garza would even his record at 4-4 with his second straight victory. After posting a 5.00 ERA in April and a 4.65 ERA in May, he has allowed three earned runs in 12 1/3 innings so far in June.
A pitcher's wins may be out of style among sabermatricians, but they still mean something in the clubhouse, according to Roenicke.
"They care about the victories," Roenicke said. "That's big for them, and knowing the teams that we think we're going to compete with in the division, those wins are always nicer."
The Brewers had built their lead with a three-run fourth inning. Jonathan Lucroy, whose sacrifice fly put the Brewers on the board in Pittsburgh's error-filled first inning, started things with a single, advanced when Aramis Ramirez was hit on the right hand by a Volquez pitch and scored on Davis' ground-rule double, giving Davis 15 RBIs in his last 17 games.
The Pirates then opted to intentionally walk Gennett to face No. 8 hitter Overbay, and Overbay made them pay. His single to right-center field scored two more runs and snapped a 2-2 tie. They were Overbay's first RBIs away from Miller Park since April 29 at St. Louis.
"The breaking ball that had been effective early, [Volquez] spun three breaking balls that hung over the plate [in the fourth inning]," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We also gave them a lot of free bases."
The Pirates drew 38,525 fans to Saturday's game, the biggest crowd ever to see the Brewers at PNC Park. They saw the Brewers capitalize on the five Pirates errors, plus four walks and two hit batsmen.
"It just shows the kind of team we have, as far as not panicking and understanding [Friday's Brewers loss] was just one game," Overbay said. "We got beat and we were able to turn the page and do the things we needed to do to be successful today and even the series."
"We've just got a bunch of battlers," Garza said. "Nobody in here wants to quit. That's what makes us, is we rely on each other and pick each other up. Tomorrow we've got another guy [Gallardo] who's going to go out there and battle. We've got guys that know that and are going to be ready and battle with him."