07/21/09 2:12 AM ET
Bucs' bats beat Brewers at long last
Pirates' win is first vs. Milwaukee in almost 14 months
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
The Pirates can at least enjoy hearing about one less streak after ending a tiring one against the Brewers in emphatic and emotional fashion at PNC Park. The Pirates treated those in the crowd of 11,471 who stayed through the lengthy rain delay to an 8-5 win.
With the win came the termination of Milwaukee's unexplainable hex.
"I was excited about having the chance to end our losing streak against them," starter Ross Ohlendorf said. "I'm sure it'll help us play a little more relaxed against them the rest of the series."
With 17 consecutive victories over the Pirates, the Brewers touted the longest winning streak by one team over another in 39 years.
"It's not something you think about, but you pick up the stats sheet and think about it quick," Delwyn Yong said. "It's always good to get a doughnut off the board."
But there was certainly much more than a snapped streak to come out of Monday's win, and it started with a resurgence by the offense. After scoring seven total runs in their recent three-game series against the Giants, the Pirates exploded for six off Milwaukee starter Mike Burns in the first two innings. And much of it, encouragingly, was done with two outs.
Already down by one run, the Pirates appeared well on their way to squandering an opportunity to even the score up immediately. Andrew McCutchen doubled to start the first, but stood on third after Garrett Jones was unable to move him 90 feet further with one out. Ryan Doumit was plunked in the shoulder two pitches later, which brought up Adam LaRoche and his July woes.
With five hits to his name all month and in his first at-bat since hitting into a rally-killing double play late in Sunday's one-run loss, LaRoche came through. His two-out single gave him his first RBI in 13 games and also provided a pick-me-up of sorts for the slumping first baseman.
"I haven't lost confidence," LaRoche said, despite his recent results.
It also kept the inning alive for Delwyn Young, who then followed with a three-run homer to right-center. The hit was the sixth for Young in 26 at-bats with runners in scoring position and two outs this season.
The Pirates benefited from an error and a missed forceout opportunity by Milwaukee an inning later to tack on two more runs. Jones' solo homer in the sixth -- his eighth homer in 15 games with the Pirates -- later drove in another.
"To let Ross go out there and be up by three-four-five runs to start the second inning, I think it makes his job easier," Young said.
That would indeed be ample run support for Ohlendorf, who has now led the Pirates to eight wins in his 10 home starts this season. It also lessened some of the sting of the offense's limited support of its starters over the weekend.
For Ohlendorf, the results were obviously favorable, though the road to victory wasn't without some bumps along the way. He was fortunate to escape the first with only one run allowed considering the first three Brewers batters singled. He stranded another six baserunners in his five-inning outing and allowed one more run before being pulled for a pinch-hitter.
"All my pitches were just OK," Ohlendorf said. "It was an OK start. I really wish I had pitched deeper in the game for us."
Halfway through his first full season as a Major League starter, the Pirates are undoubtedly intrigued to see how Ohlendorf responds over these next two-plus months. His consistency hasn't been superb so far, as Ohlendorf has secured consecutive wins only two different times this season. And he has not been able to finish six innings now in any of his past three starts. Still, promising signs -- an improving changeup and flashes of increased velocity -- have surfaced from time to time.
"It's a learning experience to be able to learn how to go deep in a game," manager John Russell said. "I think the next step is learning how to stay strong as he gets past the sixth inning to continue to hold his velocity and continue to do what he wants to do."
When Ohlendorf exited, Jeff Karstens quietly extended the bullpens' scoreless innings streak to 19 2/3, with three scoreless innings. But there was nothing quiet about what happened when Karstens came to the plate in the eighth.
Left in the lineup so he could finish the game, Karstens was hit with a first-pitch fastball from Milwaukee reliever Chris Smith, and Karstens immediately barked back at him. It had been Karstens, back on April 27, who had hit Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun with a pitch that Braun vehemently claimed was intentionally thrown at him. And now, three months later, Karstens saw this as Milwaukee's retaliation.
Both dugouts and bullpens emptied onto the field, though no one ended up being ejected.
"I was kind of expecting it," Karstens said. "They felt like they had to do what they had to do, I guess."
Karstens ended up not returning to the mound in the ninth, as his elbow began stiffening a bit in the area where he was plunked. But his three scoreless innings previously did not go unnoticed.
"I thought Karstens threw the ball great," Russell said. "It was a great win."
He limited the Brewers to just three walks and has now made five straight scoreless appearances.
"They knocked me around a little the first time I faced them in Milwaukee, so to come back and pitch that way felt pretty good," he said.
Jesse Chavez did allow the Brewers to score three times in the ninth to cut the deficit in half, but Milwaukee would get no closer, as the Pirates have now won three of four to start the second half.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.