Long balls are in vogue for the host Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates midway through their four-game series at Miller Park.
Both teams have struggled offensively much of the season, but going into Sunday’s game, they have combined for nine home runs in the first two games of their series.
Milwaukee has done a majority of the damage — and won the first two games of the series, a 9-1 rout Friday and a 7-6 win in a back-and-forth game Saturday on Eric Sogard’s walk-off homer (of course).
“You win a game like that and you feel like you’ve done your job the first two days (of the series),” Brewers manager Craig Counsell told the media.
When Pittsburgh swept a three-game series at home against Milwaukee last weekend to move to 4-2 against the Brewers on the season, it seemed as if the Pirates might have Milwaukee’s number in 2020.
Now, the teams have split their eight games going into their final two meetings Sunday and Monday.
Counsell has consistently called on his players to come through more at the plate to help take some pressure off the pitchers. In an odd twist Saturday, it was closer Josh Hader who put his team on the ropes.
Hader, who had been 7-for-7 in save opportunities entering Saturday, took the ball in the ninth with a fresh 5-4 lead but walked five of the six batters he faced, forcing in two runs and giving up the lead before Sogard bailed him out.
If the Pirates end up facing Hader again this series, they proved to their manager that they won’t be intimidated.
Derek Shelton called Hader “probably one of the best relievers in the game. It’s real easy to get jumpy and start to swing at balls, and (we) had very controlled at-bats throughout the order.”
Sogard stood up for his teammate, promising that the Pirates can’t count on Hader — who has not given up a hit this year — having those kinds of control issues if he is called upon again this series.
“You won’t see that again from Hader. It’s a one-time thing, that’s for sure,” Sogard said.
In Sunday’s matchup, Pittsburgh left-hander Steven Brault (0-1, 4.80 ERA) is scheduled to face Milwaukee right-hander Brandon Woodruff (2-2, 3.19).
Brault, who is trying to catapult himself into the forefront as a starter with others in the Pirates’ rotation hurt, had worked 12 scoreless innings over his first four starts before running into command issues his last time out.
It almost didn’t matter what he did Tuesday — giving up four runs and five hits in three innings, with four walks and no strikeouts in a 4-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox. That’s because Brault’s counterpart, Lucas Giolito, threw a no-hitter.
All Brault could do was watch with a mixture of admiration and frustration.
“He had his best stuff, and he was very, very good. It was pretty cool to see,” Brault said of Giolito. “Obviously it sucks, but at the same time, that’s baseball history right there. Good for him.”
Brault has faced Milwaukee 17 times, including 11 starts, and is 1-3 with a 3.82 ERA.
Woodruff might not be a top candidate to duplicate Giolito’s feat Sunday, but he has had moderate success against Pittsburgh. Woodruff is 3-1 with a 4.11 ERA in eight career games, six of them starts, and is 3-0 against the Pirates since the beginning of last season.
In Tuesday’s 3-2 win against Cincinnati, Woodruff pitched six innings and gave up two runs and four hits with eight strikeouts and one walk.
–Field Level Media