Brewers beat up on Pirates once again

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McClatchy Tribune
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
— The Milwaukee Brewers seem so comfortable against the Pittsburgh Pirates, you almost expect to see them reclining on La-Z-Boys in the dugout, wearing smoking jackets and slippers, martinis in hand.

The Brewers extended two streaks of stunning dominance over Pittsburgh with a 17-3 whipping Monday night at Miller Park.

In going 4-0 against the Pirates this season, the Brewers have outscored their NL Central foe by an unimaginable 53-4 margin. In between Games 3 and 4 against Pittsburgh, the Brewers were swept in three games at home by the Chicago Cubs by a 25-4 differential.

Incredibly, it also marked the 22nd consecutive victory at home for the Brewers over the Pirates, who haven’t won in Milwaukee since May 3, 2007. No team has lost that many in a row in one place since 1952-54, when Cleveland went 27-0 at home against the St. Louis Browns-turned-Baltimore Orioles.

Catcher Gregg Zaun led the way for the Brewers, shaking free of a season-opening slump with four hits and five runs batted in, both tying career highs. The carnage continued into the eighth inning, when Casey McGehee capped a nine-run outburst with the second grand slam of his career.

“It’s been a really weird six or seven days,” said McGehee. “It just shows you that momentum in baseball is the most overrated thing from day to day. It’s ridiculous. It’s a good lesson for us all to learn.”

Right-hander Yovani Gallardo, who threw five shutout innings in the middle victory in Pittsburgh, controlled the Pirates’ bats once again. Gallardo allowed five hits and two unearned runs over six innings, walking three and striking out four.

Gallardo, a dangerous hitter for a pitcher who had yet to dent the hit column in four starts, also contributed in a big way at the plate. He went 2 for 2 with a double and a walk, driving in three runs.

Left-hander Zach Duke absorbed his second consecutive thumping by the Brewers, surrendering nine hits and eight runs over four innings. In 8-0 and 8-1 losses to Milwaukee over a five-day span, Duke was tagged for 16 hits, eight walks and 15 runs in nine innings.

For those wondering if the Brewers would resume their domination of the Pirates after being throttled all weekend by the Chicago Cubs, it didn’t take long to get the answer. After scoring twice in the second inning against Duke, the Brewers exploded for five runs in the third to take a quick 7-0 lead.

By scoring five runs in that inning, the Brewers eclipsed their total output of four runs in the embarrassing sweep by the Cubs.

“Some teams just match up better against others, and the results show it,” said Zaun. “We’ve got to find a way to beat the Cubs. That doesn’t take away from the fact we’ve played some really good baseball against Pittsburgh.”

If the Pirates weren’t convinced of their bad karma at Miller Park, that third inning should have driven the lesson home. With one down, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder singled, but Duke retired McGehee on a roller to second, giving him a chance to escape unscathed.

Well aware that Zaun was 0 for 16 against lefties for the season, the Pirates discussed the situation and opted to intentionally walk Corey Hart, loading the bases. Zaun foiled that strategy by yanking a 2-1 changeup from Duke into the left-field corner to drive in all three runners.

Duke caved a bit after that, allowing consecutive singles to Alcides Escobar, Gallardo and Rickie Weeks, with the last two driving in runs.

“I knew why they walked Corey to get to me,” said Zaun, who overcame a cramp in the back of his right shoulder that caused problems throwing the ball back to Gallardo in the first inning.

“It was obvious they weren’t going to give him anything to hit. They did it in Pittsburgh, and I didn’t make them pay. I was lucky to get enough of that changeup and hit it down the line. That was huge, especially for my confidence.”

The Brewers, who used the rout to give Jeff Suppan an inning of mop-up work at the end, entered the third inning with a 2-0 lead, thanks to a two-out, two-run double by Gallardo in the second. Zaun, not known for his speed, scored all the way from first despite beaten by the relay home when Ryan Doumit did not block the plate and was late with his tag.

“I saw an opening there with some white stuff and I reached for it with my toe,” said Zaun, who credited pitching coach Rick Peterson with the following punch line.

“It’s a good thing I wasn’t a size 12.”

Last updated: 1:20 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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