Marcum takes some off fastball to stop Pirates in their tracks
“I was throwing more of a ‘BP’ fastball tonight,” Marcum explained. “I was looking back to the past when I’ve had more than an extra day of rest and my arm felt too good and it seemed like my ball flattened out.
“I kind of slowed it down a little bit and tried not to do too much. I just let the ball action take care of itself.”
It was anything but batting practice for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who managed only four harmless singles over seven innings off Marcum as the Brewers pulled away to a 6-0 victory at PNC Park for their sixth triumph in seven games after a 0-4 start.
It was the third shutout already for the improved Brewers’ pitching staff, their highest total through 11 games since the 1990 club posted four blankings over that span.
This was the Marcum the Brewers expected when they traded top prospect Brett Lawrie to Toronto for the changeup specialist in December. Showing no signs of the shoulder tightness that slowed him for a period during spring training, he didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and walked only one with four strikeouts.
“That’s what I saw from him last year (with Toronto),” said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke, referring to his experience on the Los Angeles Angels’ coaching staff.
“I think we saw shades of it in his last ball game. This is what you usually see from the first inning on.”
Heading to the bottom of the fifth, one wondered if either team would get a hit, much less score a run. Pittsburgh right-hander Kevin Correia allowed only two walks through five innings and Marcum put down the first 12 hitters he faced.
“It was one of those nights,” said Marcum. “I think having a couple of days off (including a Tuesday rainout), speaking for the hitters, it screwed up everybody’s timing. I just tried to throw strikes and keep the ball down.”
Former Toronto teammate Lyle Overbay finally broke through against Marcum with a leadoff single in the bottom of the fifth and Matt Diaz followed with another, but Marcum struck out Pedro Alvarez and quickly shut down that threat.
Catcher Jonathan Lucroy, playing his first game of the season after recovering from a broken finger, got the Brewers going with a leadoff double to left-center in the sixth. Merely trying to move up Lucroy, Marcum bunted for a hit when he dropped one down the third-base line that left the Pirates with no play.
After second baseman Neil Walker ranged into shallow right to haul in Rickie Weeks’ pop fly, Carlos Gomez sent a foul fly down the right-field line. Not known for his speed, Lucroy tagged and beat the throw of Diaz, whose momentum was going away from the plate.
The Brewers then seized control when Ryan Braun singled and white-hot Prince Fielder followed with a booming homer to left-center, the deepest part of the park. The three-run blast extended Fielder’s hitting streak to six games, during which he has driven in 14 runs.
“I knew I hit it good, then I saw (centerfielder Andrew McCutchen) running after it and I said, ‘Oh-oh,’ ” said Fielder. “We hadn’t hit anything hard before that inning.
“Shaun pitched a great game. I was just glad we were able to get him some runs.”
The Brewers tacked on two more runs in the seventh, with Nyjer Morgan doing what he does best—plowing over a catcher. Inserted as a pinch-runner, Morgan raced around from first on Yuniesky Betancourt’s double to left-center and crashed through catcher Ryan Doumit when he tried to block the plate.
“My brain got scrambled a little bit, but I knew where I was,” said Morgan, who created controversy last year with Washington for smacking into catchers who weren’t blocking the plate.
“I love just playing the game hard. It feels good to not get blasted and wore out for good, hard play. It’s part of the game. You’ve got to go hard. I only know one way to play.”
Reliever Zach Braddock walked a couple of hitters in the eighth, but reliable Kameron Loe bailed him out and Mitch Stetter took care of the ninth as the Brewers lowered their team earned run average to 3.17.
“It’s not about throwing shutouts,” said Marcum (2-1, 2.55). “It’s about getting wins and keeping this team in the game. I’ve said before that if we hold the opposition to four runs or less we’re going to win a lot of games.”