PITTSBURGH -- Mark Reynolds called it an "ugly, terribly-played game" for the Brewers, who wound up winning anyway -- with a little bit of magic.
Kyle Lohse covered the Brewers' defensive bumbles with 6 1/3 quality innings, Carlos Gomez hit a memorably long home run, and Milwaukee relievers made big pitch after big pitch Friday to strand a boatload of Pirates on the bases in the late innings. But this will go down as the night Martin Maldonado literally knocked the cover off the baseball in the Brewers' 5-3 win at PNC Park.
"Never in my whole life have I seen that," said Mr. Baseball himself, Bob Uecker.
Maldonado's hit came straight off the sandlot in the sixth inning, a bouncer to third base that might have been mundane had the baseball not broken at the seams before it reached Pedro Alvarez's glove. Maldonado was safe, everybody had a good laugh, and it led to a Brewers run when Gomez followed with an infield hit of his own for a 5-2 lead.
The Pirates cut their deficit to 5-3 in the seventh inning, but stranded six men on base over the final three innings, as Brewers relievers Will Smith, Jim Henderson and Francisco Rodriguez each authored a harrowing escape.
When Reynolds deflected a line drive and made a bare-handed catch to end the game, the Brewers had the best record in baseball at 12-5, though they didn't play like it for much of the night. Milwaukee's four errors were a season high, including one charged to Reynolds when he bumped third baseman Aramis Ramirez trying to field a routine infield pop-up by the Pirates' very first batter, Starling Marte.
Marte promptly stole second base and scampered to third when Maldonado's throw sailed wide for another error, and he scored on Russell Martin's groundout. In the third inning, Gomez and shortstop Jean Segura bobbled the baseball on Martin's RBI single, putting Lohse in a precarious situation. He managed to wiggle free with the bases loaded and the deficit only 2-0.
It was the first of many Brewers escapes.
"You have to credit Lohse for pitching around all of the [trouble] we caused for him," said Reynolds.
Lohse improved to 11-2 lifetime against the Pirates by limiting the damage to three runs (one earned) on four hits in 6 1/3 innings, with three walks and five strikeouts. It was significantly more of a challenge than five days earlier, when Lohse needed only 100 pitches to breeze through 8 2/3 innings against the same team.
"I kind of pride myself on being able to take myself out of the moment and just make pitches," he said. "The way that first inning went, that first [error on Reynolds], that's part on me, because I didn't direct traffic as well as I should have. After that, you try to minimize the damage. …
"It wasn't pretty. They all count the same. Sometimes you have to win ugly. Sometimes everything goes just right and you catch breaks; tonight was just kind of a grind-it-out night."
While Lohse and four Brewers relievers did their work, Brewers hitters mounted a comeback.
Scooter Gennett's two-run double and Maldonado's RBI single in the fourth inning turned a two-run deficit into a 3-2 lead, and Gomez made it 4-2 in the fifth with a monstrous home run that struck high off the batter's eye in straightaway center field. It was his team-best fifth home run this season.
"We made a lot of mistakes, and they didn't take advantage," Gomez said. "We made a couple of errors, we put a lot of men on base, and they didn't score runs when we gave them the opportunity. We took advantage the next inning [the fourth] and found a way to make runs."
Pirates starter Charlie Morton lost after allowing five runs on eight hits in six innings. He's 2-6 in 11 career starts against the Brewers.
"There was a tale of two Charlies tonight," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The first three innings and the second three innings."
Lohse kept the Pirates off the scoreboard from the third inning until the seventh, when another Brewers error -- charged to Segura after a wild throw -- led to another unearned Pirates run. Clint Barmes scored on Andrew McCutchen's two-out double off Brewers reliever Tyler Thornburg, snapping Thornburg's streak of 21 consecutive batters retired and cutting Milwaukee's lead to 5-3.
With the tying run in scoring position, left-hander Smith caught Alvarez looking at a nasty breaking ball for Strike 3. After Smith found trouble in the eighth, Henderson took over and put the go-ahead runner on base before getting Marte to pop out with the bases loaded. In the ninth, Rodriguez walked the leadoff man, but retired the heart of the Pittsburgh order -- McCutchen, Alvarez and Neil Walker -- for career save No. 309, one shy of Goose Gossage for 20th in Major League history.
"We had a lot of innings with men on base, and our pitchers made nice pitches when they needed to," Maldonado said.
When someone suggested to manager Ron Roenicke it was a "team win," he smiled.
"I guess that's what you call it," Roenicke said. "We were fortunate to win the game, especially the way we started out. It was just one of those games. Goofy stuff happened early, goofy stuff with Maldy hitting that ball. I haven't seen that before. … I don't know. It was a strange game."