PITTSBURGH – Backup catcher Damian Miller homered twice during a four-hit night, including a grand slam in Milwaukee’s seven-run seventh inning, and his seven RBIs matched a club record as the Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 10-3.
Miller went 4-for-5 while playing for the first time since hitting a three-run, game-ending homer in the 11th inning to beat Houston on Wednesday – his first homer this season. Miller has three homers and 11 RBIs in his last two games after previously having no homers and six RBIs all season.
The Pirates should have known better than to pitch to Miller, given their recent problems pitching to backup catchers. They lost 3-2 to Washington on Sunday, costing them a three-game sweep, when little-used catcher Jesus Flores hit a decisive two-run homer in the sixth inning.
Miller initially wasn’t supposed to play Monday – starter Johnny Estrada was scheduled to get a day off Sunday, but stayed in the lineup because manager Ned Yost felt he matched up better against the Cubs’ Jason Marquis. That meant Miller started in Pittsburgh, where the Brewers had dropped 37 of 55 since PNC Park opened in 2001.
Miller’s two-run shot off rookie John Van Benschoten put the Brewers up 3-1 in the fourth. The homer came on an 0-2 pitch, the same count as when Flores homered Sunday and, normally, a pitch out of the strike zone that hitters aren’t supposed to reach.
Miller’s first homer was one of only three hits off Van Benschoten, but the Brewers had a lot more by the time the seventh inning ended. All of their scoring came against 39-year-old Japanese pitcher Masumi Kuwata (0-1), who began the inning with a 2.53 ERA in nine appearances but ended it with a 7.94 ERA after giving up five hits and seven runs.
Corey Hart doubled and scored on J.J. Hardy’s go-ahead single, and Bill Hall added an RBI double around intentional walks to Prince Fielder and Geoff Jenkins. After Pirates manager Jim Tracy went to the mound to talk to Kuwata, Miller homered into the left-center seats on a 1-1 pitch.
Tracy, his team 12 games under .500 one game past the midpoint of the season, heard numerous boos as he went to the mound to replace Kuwata with John Wasdin.
Nate McLouth doubled twice and scored both times against Brewers starter Jeff Suppan, who left after throwing 106 pitches in five innings. Freddy Sanchez, the Pirates’ surprise All-Star pick, got both RBIs on a groundout and sacrifice fly.
Carlos Villaneuva (6-0) replaced Suppan and pitched four shutout innings for the victory, working with a seven-run lead the final three innings.
Notes: Also driving in seven runs for the Brewers were Ted Kubiak (1970), Jose Hernandez (2001) and Richie Sexson (2002). … The grand slam was the sixth of Miller’s career and Milwaukee’s sixth this season. Miller’s four-hit game tied a career high, set three times previously. … Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., threw out the first pitch. He was given a Pirates No. 2 jersey and watched the game from the grandstands. … Despite excellent weather, the Pirates drew only 33,600 for their last two home games – 14,451 on Monday. The low crowds followed an organized fan protest against ownership during the club’s 15th consecutive losing season. … The Pirates’ slumping Jason Bay hit sixth for the first time this season and went 0-for-4 to drop his average to .259, down from .314 on June 1.