PIRATES – BREWERS REACTIONS
Chris Stewart came to the Pirates with the reputation of being a good “catch-and-throw guy,” which is baseball shorthand for a catcher who can’t hit.
Stewart had a .214 career batting average over seven seasons when the Pirates acquired him in trade from the New York Yankees in the 2013-14 offseason.
Yet while the 33-year-old will never be confused as a hitter with Mike Piazza — or even Russell Martin — he is no longer a zero at the plate. In fact, he has become an offensive contributor as evidenced again Friday night.
Stewart had three hits and three RBIs to lead the Pirates to a 6-3 victory over the Brewers at PNC Park, ending their seven-game losing streak to Milwaukee. The Pirates also got within four games of first-place St. Louis in the National League Central after the Cardinals’ game with the Reds at Cincinnati was suspended in the eighth inning with the score tied 2-2.
Stewart’s two-run single capped a three-run fourth inning and put the Pirates ahead for good, 3-2. Getting a start while Francisco Cervelli got a night off, Stewart added an RBI single in the sixth that made it 4-2.
Stewart tied a career high with his third three-hit game of the season and fifth of his career, pointing to his head after each single.
So what was with the pointing?
“It just means that it was smart hitting,” Stewart said. “For me, smart hitting is anytime I can get a ball to find someone outfield grass because that means a knock.”
He then laughed.
“Tonight smart hitting was being lucky enough to find the holes in the infield,” Stewart said.
Stewart is definitely not a power hitter. He has yet to hit a home run in his two seasons with the Pirates, covering 100 games and 310 plate appearances, and has eight in his career.
However, Stewart does what he does well as he has a .294 batting average since being acquired from a non-prospect minor league pitcher.
“He stays within his skill set very, very well,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “He works on his bunting and that club is in his bag. He works on the hit and run. He knows what he needs to do to help offensively.”
What stands out the most about Stewart is his studiousness. If one were to handicap the odds on which current Pirates players might wind up being major league mangers someday, Stewart would be the favorite.
“It’s good to have him on our club,” Hurdle said. “He helps out all over the place. He’s able to give that kind of game like he did tonight from time to time. He doesn’t miss much when he doesn’t play. He’s constantly watching, always talking to the catcher between innings. He’s turned into a very professional player.
“He has a good touch and feel, not just professionally but personally, too. He understands situations. He understands people. He is able to adapt game plans, sharpen them up.”
–Charlie Morton snapped his three-start losing streak, allowing two runs and three hits in six innings with two walks and two strikeouts.
Morton gave up a double to Elian Herrera and two-run home run Adam Lind with one out in the first inning then did not allow a run and surrendered just one hit the rest of the way.
“His fastball location picked up after the first inning,” Hurdle said. “His command got sharper. He was able to work it down in the corners then the curveball and changeup came into the play and the three double plays and 11 groundball outs played a big part in his success.”
Morton did not allow the early troubles to rattle him.
“It was the just one bad pitch (to Lind),” Morton said. “It wasn’t really anything different after that. Guys make bad pitches. I made a bad pitch but I just moved on.”
–Left-handed reliever Tony Watson got the biggest out of the game, getting pinch hitter Ryan Braun to ground to third base to end the eighth inning with the bases loaded and the Pirates holding a 6-3 lead.
“He kept the game in place,” Hurdle said. “He is very resilient, so solid and very effective against very good hitters. We needed a stop right there and he gave it to us.”
–The Pirates beat the Brewers for the first time since the All-Star break, having been swept in two three-game series at Milwaukee then losing 6-4 in 13 innings on Thursday night in the series opener.
However, the Pirates took no extra satisfaction from the victory.
“I just think at this point, if it wasn’t before then it’s even more so now, regardless of who we’re playing we have to win,” Morton said. “We’re a good team. We can beat anybody and we’ve just got to win, doesn’t matter who it is.”
–Left fielder Starling Marte (left shoulder discomfort) did not start but entered the game in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement. He left Thursday night’s game in the 10th inning, three innings after being hit by a pitch from Brewers right-hander Wily Peralta. Marte said he felt much better Friday and was hopeful of playing Saturday night.
–Third baseman Aramis Ramirez made his third career start at first base, all coming within the span of the last four days. Ramirez has played 2,097 games at third base in his 18-year career. However, he did not make his debut at first base until Tuesday night in a win at Cincinnati.
–First baseman Pedro Alvarez was on the bench for the third time in four games. Alvarez is also 0-for-10 against Milwaukee’s Jimmy Nelson, who started Friday night.