Brewers extend winning streak, defeat Pirates
By Andrew Wagner
The Sports Xchange
MILWAUKEE -- Last season was anything but fun for Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez.
The veteran appeared in 92 games and was hardly himself for most of the season; hampered by knee injuries.
All that is a distant memory for Ramirez, who continued his torrid start to the 2014 season with a 2-for-4 performance that included a two-run home run in the Brewers' 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates Friday night at Miller Park, extending their winning streak to seven games.
Ramirez has hit safely in nine of the Brewers' first 10 games this season and has at least one RBI in eight of those contests. After his performance Friday, Ramirez is batting a team-leading .395 and has also looked solid at third base.
"That's how you win games," Ramirez said. "You have to do everything. You have to play defense, hit with guys on base and pitch. That's key. Everybody is focused on our offense, but our pitching has been great. That's why we are who we are."
Ramirez's home run, and another by first baseman Mark Reynolds, spoiled what had been an otherwise stellar outing by the Pirates' young left-hander.
Liriano (0-2) was perfect through his first three innings before issuing a leadoff walk to center fielder Carlos Gomez in the fourth. Groundouts by shortstop Jean Segura and right fielder Ryan Braun put Gomez at third for Ramirez, who sent a 1-2 fastball from Liriano into the left-field bullpen for his first home run of the season.
After Brewers left fielder Khris Davis struck out to lead off the fifth, Reynolds took Liriano's first offering to nearly the same spot as Ramirez for his third home run of the season.
"I was trying to go up and in and it went middle-in," Liriano said. "I made two mistakes and you can't make those kind of mistakes at this level."
Second baseman Rickie Weeks followed with a double into the left-field corner and scored on Gomez's base hit to left, giving the Brewers a 4-0 lead.
"The first three innings was vintage (Liriano)," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The fastball command, fastballs in, the change-up, the slider for a wipe-out pitch. There's such a fine line on the mound sometimes. If he could have two pitches back, it would be those two fastballs."
Second baseman Neil Walker had two hits -- including a two-run home run in the seventh -- for the Pirates, who were stymied by Milwaukee right-hander Wily Peralta.
Peralta (1-0) allowed four hits and two walks and struck out four over his seven-inning start to pick up his first victory of the season and to further-lower the collective ERA of Milwaukee's starters to 2.31 on the season.
"Really good command on the fastball today," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Had nice sink on it. He kept it down low. Even the pitches he missed were low. Mixed in his slider well; threw a lot of good ones. Really, it's just commanding the ball."
Walker's home run came with nobody out in the seventh.
Catcher Russell Martin reached on an error by Ramirez before Walker slammed a 1-0 two-seamer into right-center for his second home run of the season to make it a 4-2 game.
Peralta responded by getting first baseman Travis Ishikawa to fly out to center than retired shortstop Jody Mercer and pinch-hitter Jose Tabata on grounders to end the inning.
"It was great," Peralta said. "Liriano is a tough pitcher. We were able to get some runs to give me the lead early, and I was able to set the tone after that and put some zeros on the board."
Right-hander Jim Henderson worked a perfect eighth and right-hander Francsciso Rodriguez struck out the side in the ninth for his third save in as many opportunities.
Through 10 games this season, Brewers relievers have a combined ERA of 0.91, the best mark in baseball.
NOTES: The Pirates reinstated LHP Jeff Locke from the 15-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Indianapolis. ... Brewers manager Ron Roenicke opted to start C Jonathan Lucroy on Friday instead of C Martin Maldonado, who usually catches RHP Wily Peralta. Lucroy brought a .371 average into the game and Maldonado was 0-for-5 at the plate this season. ... Pittsburgh went 5-4 in Milwaukee last season, their first winning record at Miller Park since 2004. Since the 2007 season, the Pirates are 12-49 at Miller Park. ... Through their first 10 games, Brewers pitchers lead the majors with a 1.85 ERA and the relievers had held opponents to three earned runs in 29 2/3 innings.