By George Von Benko / MLB.com | 4/14/2011 11:35 PM ET
PITTSBURGH — Milwaukee got a solid pitching performance from lefty Randy Wolf and downed the Pirates, 4-1, on Thursday night at PNC Park.
“Wolf was great and had command of the fastball, and pitched inside and kept them off balance,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said.
Brewers’ catcher Jonathan Lucroy felt that Wolf was in complete control.
“He kept them off balance real good,” Lucroy stated. “He mixed it up and sped ’em up, slowed ’em down and put ’em away when he had to. He definitely did a good job.”
The Brewers extended their winning streak to four games and sent the Pirates to their fourth consecutive defeat, as they swept the rain-shortened two-game series. Milwaukee extended its mastery over the Pirates — since 2007 the Brewers are now 48-17 against Pittsburgh.
Milwaukee pitchers tossed strong back-to-back games against the Pirates. Wolf, making his third start, had his most effective outing of the season, tossing 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing three hits and notching 10 strikeouts. It was the 14th time in his career that he has recorded 10 or more strikeouts. Wolf is now 1-2 on the year.
“Fastball command is always the key behind any game,” Wolf said. “Another big pitch today was my cutter, I had good command of that. It’s a pitch I’ve been burned on the first two games, but I felt I had good command of it today. … I didn’t really have a curveball today, so the pitches I had were a fastball and a cutter — and I felt I could go in and out with my fastball. I could go in off the plate when I needed to, and then pitch away when I needed to.
“I think it goes back to that cutter, I had later action today — and I was able to put it into the zone where it’s a little bit above the belt, where it’s hard for a hitter to get to. … Then to be able to back that up with a fastball that I was able to throw with decent command, that helped.”
The Pirates weren’t overflowing with praise for Wolf’s performance. Andrew McCutchen gave a grudging tip of the cap when asked how much credit Wolf deserved.
“I don’t know, really. He hit his spots, I suppose. He did what he had to do. He got outs. That was it,” McCutchen stated.
Pirates starter Paul Maholm hurled seven innings and surrendered two runs on four hits. He was saddled with the loss, falling to 0-2 on the season.
“[Prince] Fielder got a big hit and we got a couple off him early,” Roenicke offered. “Maholm settled down, and pitched really well and changed speeds. He has pitched well for them, and we knew that coming in.”
“We jumped out early,” Wolf said. “If you look at what Maholm’s done so far this year, he’s had three good games — and I think we knew he was going to be tough. He was mixing his pitches really well, and was really tough on us. He threw a good game. We just were lucky we had just enough to compensate for that.”
The Brewers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Rickie Weeks led off with a single, Ryan Braun drew a one-out walk, and the sizzling Fielder stroked an RBI single to right field to score Weeks. Yuniesky Betancourt then lofted a sacrifice fly to left, driving in Braun. Fielder now has 15 RBIs over his last seven games.
“Everyone knows that Maholm gives me trouble,” Fielder explained. “So to be able to get that hit and get that run was really, really key. That’s when you gotta get him — especially for me because he wears me out, so that’s when you’ve got to get him, get him early.”
Milwaukee added two runs in the top of the ninth. Casey McGehee doubled to lead off the inning, and scored after Betancourt’s single and a throwing error by Pirates second baseman Neil Walker. Nyjer Morgan followed with a double to score Betancourt, before getting thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a triple.
The Pirates scored in the ninth, McCutchen coming home on John Axford’s wild pitch.
After starting the season with an 0-4 record, the Brewers have righted the ship and won five of their last six games.
“I feel a lot of positive energy in this clubhouse,” Lucroy said. “I feel good when I come in. And I feel like that no one even remembers that 0-4 start. Everybody is ready to push that out of their minds and is moving forward.”