Neil Walker slammed a three-run home run, and Charlie Morton won his fourth consecutive decision on Monday in a 5-2 holiday win for the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Brewers in Milwaukee — a victory that put the Bucs back into sole possession of first place in the National League Central Division.
The Pirates received help from the third-place Cincinnati Reds, who defeated the second-place St. Louis Cardinals 7-2. The Cards trail Pittsburgh by one game, and the Reds are 3-and-a-half games out of first place. The Bucs (80-57) have already surpassed last season’s entire win total of 79, and have reached 80 victories for the first time since 1992.
Walker’s 10th homer of the season broke open a 2-1 ballgame in the top of the seventh inning. The Pirates’ previous two scores had both come on RBI base hits by Jose Tabata which both followed hits by Clint Barmes and sacrifice bunts by Morton.
Tabata went 3-for-4 and raised his batting average to .280. Walker, Barmes and Andrew McCutchen (.319) all recorded two hits. Logan Schafer and Jean Segura singled home runs for the Brewers (59-78).
Morton (7-3; 3.00 ERA) allowed only two runs (one earned) and seven hits over seven innings, struck out six batters and walked two. After an inning of scoreless relief from Tony Watson, Mark Melancon worked the ninth inning for his 10th save. Morton is 4-0 with a 1.71 ERA over his last five starts, and 6-1 with a 2.90 ERA since the All-Star break. Milwaukee spot starter Tyler Thornburgh (1-1; 2.08 ERA) took the loss.
In a rematch of a game played in Pittsburgh last Thursday afternoon in the second game of the current series, the Pirates will send rookie Gerrit Cole (6-7; 3.80 ERA) to the mound on Tuesday night against the Brewers’ Yovani Gallardo (10-9; 4.39 ERA).