Another Brewers win over Bucs, but without drama
Rematch of Cole, Pirates vs. Gomez, Crew doesn't lead to repeat of fracas
MILWAUKEE -- There was no brawl, no melee, no fracas.
There was, instead, simply baseball.
There had been suggestions that open warfare was about to break out between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Milwaukee Brewers. What occurred instead was actually a well-played baseball game. This was both a relief and a joy.
What did occur when these two teams played Tuesday night at Miller Park was the conventional thing. Milwaukee won, 5-2.
Since 2007, the Brewers are 83-37 against the Pirates, including 7-1 this season. The Bucs' only winning season against the Crew in that period occurred last year, when Pittsburgh went 12-7.
But even with that, the Brewers have gone 52-12 against the Pirates at Miller Park since 2007. There is no explaining that kind of domination, particularly now. The Bucs, in their breakthrough season of 2013, were a National League Wild Card team, finishing second in the NL Central. The Brewers finished fourth. At the moment, of course, Milwaukee is leading the division, while Pittsburgh is in fourth.
In any case, when these clubs last met each other, on April 20 at PNC Park, there had been a fight, which included real punches and the evidence of real animosity. Four players were suspended, including two from each team, although Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez's three-game suspension, which Gomez has appealed, has not yet been served.
Gomez and Pittsburgh's Travis Snider met by chance at a Milwaukee restaurant Monday night, and according to Gomez: "We shook hands and he gave me a hug, and everything is good. There's no hard feelings."
Peace and love, man.
The managers of both clubs did a nice job of dispelling the notion that Tuesday night's game was anything other than a game. Nobody's manhood was at stake.
"I expect us to play with emotion, but not to play emotionally," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said before the game. "I think that can take away from your play. This is a good team we're playing; we're playing a team in first place. There's enough adrenaline flow, I think, that we just need to control what we can control, beating the Brewers. We don't need to beat them a certain way. We don't have to have X, Y and Z happen. We just need to stay focused on the job at hand, play the game, win the game.
"I know the way I want us to go about our play; to go out and fear nothing and respect everything; those are two things we talk about repeatedly here."
"I just don't think anything is going to happen," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "I don't know why it would."
And nothing of a negative nature did happen. Pittsburgh starter Gerrit Cole did plunk Gomez with a pitch in the third, but it was an offspeed pitch and no damage was done.
The Miller Park crowd of 24,176 booed Cole as though he had just defaced Henry Aaron's statue, but nobody on the field saw evil intentions behind an 86-mph pitch.
Tempers were high on April 20, but that was then. This, Tuesday night, was baseball.
"I think that stuff's behind us," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said of the fracas in Pittsburgh. "I don't think anybody wants to do any of that anymore. I think we're all over it."
What was left for Milwaukee was a hard-earned victory, a 25-14 record, first place and yet another triumph over Pittsburgh. The contemporary Pirates seemingly should be competing on something like even terms against the Brewers, but it isn't working out that way so far in 2014.
Roenicke said he could not isolate one single reason why his club has fared so well against a Bucs team that since last season can be considered a legitimate postseason contender.
"We seem to play good baseball [against the Pirates]," Roenicke said. "We've pitched well. I think when we're pitching well, I don't think there's anybody that's going to hit our guys. But I don't have an answer for that [success against Pittsburgh]."
Marco Estrada was in charge of the starting pitching portion of the task for Milwaukee on Tuesday night. He had an effective performance, despite atypical command problems.
"Every inning, I battled," Estrada said. "Mentally, I was there. I struggled physically, making pitches."
But after six innings, Estrada had allowed the Bucs just one run. His teammates, meanwhile, had scratched and clawed to come up with three runs over the same period against Cole, whose fastball reached 98 mph.
It was good after this Pirates-Brewers contest to hear a starting pitcher say, "I battled," secure in the knowledge that he meant he was trying very hard to make pitches, not that he was throwing left jabs and right hooks.
It was just baseball again. And that was more than enough.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.