By Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel –
PITTSBURGH — The Milwaukee Brewers have gotten themselves onto the cusp of the second wild-card spot in the National League with a winning mix of potent offense, solid pitching and reliable defense.
On Tuesday night, they showed they can also be a factor on the base paths.
The Brewers ran wild on the Pittsburgh Pirates, stealing seven bases on the hapless catching duo of Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry after rapping out 13 singles en route to a 6-0 shutout victory at PNC Park.
The win was the fifth straight for Milwaukee (75-72) over flagging Pittsburgh (74-73). By virtue of the St. Louis Cardinals’ victory over the Houston Astros, the Brewers ended the night 21/2 games behind the pace.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, the lone team standing between the Brewers and the Cardinals, are 11/2 games out after their game in Washington was postponed due to rain. The Pirates, meanwhile, are now 31/2 games back.
Ryan Braun stole three bases, while Norichika Aoki, Rickie Weeks, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez each had one.
“That is a lot,” said Braun, who is now three steals shy of his first 40-home run, 30-stolen base season. “For us, I think part of the reason we’ve played really well is we’ve been aggressive over the last month. Picking and choosing our spots.
“Not overly aggressive, but obviously that was probably the biggest reason we won the game tonight — aggressive on the bases.”
The Brewers’ total of seven tied for second-most in franchise history, with the last seven-steal game coming against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 30, 1992. The record is eight, set Aug. 29, 1992, at Toronto.
Gomez has 33 and Braun and Aoki 27 each for Milwaukee, which is now the top base-stealing team in the major leagues with 142.
“I liked it,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “I thought the jumps were all good, I think they were good times to go. And we had the opportunities — anytime we’re on second base and we get that base hit, and we got a few of them.
“That was a good game.”
It was another good game for Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, as well.
The right-hander, who hasn’t lost since July 26, pitched 62/3 innings of two-hit shutout baseball, walking four and striking out six to improve to 16-8.
He looked to have a great shot at throwing at least eight innings until he needed to throw 24 pitches in a seventh that might have ended earlier if not for a Jean Segura error on an attempted turn of a double play.
As it turned out, Gallardo settled for his major-league-leading 25th quality start. Over his last 10 starts, Gallardo is 8-0 with a 2.69 earned-run average.
“I was just going out there and making my pitches, sticking with the same game plan and keeping that lead,” Gallardo said.
Roenicke added: “Yo’s on a roll. He goes out there and throws up a lot of zeros.”
The Brewers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second inning after Travis Ishikawa was hit by Pirates starter A.J. Burnett, went to second on a Gomez single and third on a Segura walk, and scored on a single by Aoki.
They held that until the sixth, when Segura singled in Lucroy to make it 2-0. In the seventh, Weeks singled, stole second and scored on a single by Braun. Then Braun stole second — his third on the night — and scored on a single by Lucroy as Milwaukee took a 4-0 lead.
Gallardo’s jam came in the bottom of the seventh, when the Pirates loaded the bases on a single, Segura’s error and a walk. Roenicke pulled Gallardo for Jim Henderson, who needed six pitches to get pinch hitter Michael McKenry to pop out to Weeks to end the frame.
“He’s got some pop,” Henderson said. “I know he was up there looking to tie the game up, for sure.”
Milwaukee added a couple insurance runs in the eighth when Gomez singled and — what else? — stole second to get into scoring position for Segura, who singled him in. Segura then moved to third on a ground ball and scored on Aoki’s fly ball.
Now the Brewers have two more games to try and add some additional cushion between themselves and the Pirates.
“The next two games are going to be the same way,” Gallardo said when asked about two teams in similar situations, scrambling to try and catch the Cardinals and get that second wild-card spot.
“We have the talent here, a great group of guys that goes out there and plays hard every day. We all play as a team, which is a huge part.”