Yovani Gallardo put together his best start of the year at a time when the starting rotation for the Milwaukee Brewers had been struggling.
Gallardo shut out the Pittsburgh Pirates over seven innings Sunday at PNC Park and a pair of relievers helped close the door as the Brewers won the rubber game of the series 1-0.
But it was a fan who made the biggest difference on the day for Milwaukee (38-26).
Jonathan Lucroy blooped a ground-rule double down the left-field line off Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke (0-1), who had been recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis to make his first big-league appearance since May 5 after making the All-Star Game a season ago.
Lucroy was between home and first after hitting the bloop, which he thought would land in foul territory. But it hit inside the foul line and bounced toward the stands, where a fan wearing a black Pirates T-shirt grabbed it.
So instead of a single, Lucroy was awarded a ground-rule double on a fan interference call.
It proved fatal to the Bucs (29-33).
Pittsburgh had only a few chances to score, but squandered two of them and had the other snuffed out on a terrific throw from right field by Ryan Braun.
In the seventh against a fading Gallardo, Russell Martin was at third base with Pedro Alvarez at first when Jordy Mercer tried to execute a squeeze bunt with one out in the inning. Mercer fouled off one bunt attempt and the other stayed too close to the plate to score the runner, but he did reach first on a single to load the bases.
The Pirates only other chance came in the second inning with Neil Walker at third base and one out.
Gaby Sanchez flied out to Braun and Walker tagged and tried to score, but Braun’s throw beat him easily and Lucroy applied the tag.
Umpires reviewed the call to determine if Lucroy had given Walker a lane to the plate and the out call stood upon review.
With Gallardo out of the game in the eighth, Andrew McCutcheon doubled to center with one out and moved up to third on a ground out by Sanchez.
Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke wasted no time, summoning closer Francisco Rodriguez in relief of Rob Wooten. On a 3-2 pitch, Rodriguez threw a curveball that appeared to be inside but was rung up as strike three by home plate umpire Ed Hickox.
Martin fired his bat into the ground and was ejected, as was Pirates manager Clint Hurdle when he came out to protect Martin, who also hurled his batting helmet.
Gallardo (4-4) allowed only four hits and a walk while striking out eight. Wooten got two outs in the eighth, allowing a hit, and Rodriguez earned his 19th save by getting four outs, working around two walks in the ninth.
Locke, called up to replace flame-thrower Gerrit Cole—who was placed on the disabled list with arm fatigue—looked much more like the All-Star of 2013 than the guy who couldn’t make the club out of spring training this year. The lefty surrendered just three hits in seven innings, striking out five.
Of Milwaukee’s four hits, Lucroy had three of them, including a pair of doubles—the fan-aided one in the seventh and another in the ninth.
Heading into an off-day Monday before opening a three-game series against the Mets in New York on Tuesday, the Brewers are still five games clear of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central.
It’s the latest Milwaukee has been in first place since winning the division title in 2011 and the Brewers have been in first place for 75 days now this season.
Tags: Milwaukee Brewers