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PITTSBURGH (AP) – Christian Yelich hit his 32nd home run, Travis Shaw added his 31st and the Milwaukee Brewers blew past the mistake-prone Pittsburgh Pirates 13-6 on Sunday.
Yelich finished 2 for 3 to boost his batting average to an NL-leading .322 as Milwaukee won for the third time in four games to bolster its chances of reaching the postseason for just the fifth time in franchise history. The Brewers (89-67) hold the top NL wild-card spot and remained 2½ games behind the first-place Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, as well as two games ahead of St. Louis, which has the second wild-card position. Both rivals also won Sunday.
Yelich blasted a three-run shot in the second inning off spot starter Nick Kingham (5-7), and Shaw followed two batters later with a long drive over the right-field seats as the Brewers built an early seven-run lead and cruised. Mike Moustakas, acquired in a midseason trade with Kansas City, added his 28th homer of the season, eight of them with Milwaukee.
Corey Knebel (3-3) picked up the win in relief after starter Wade Miley failed to record an out during a rocky fifth inning.
When the Brewers weren’t knocking the ball around PNC Park, the Pirates were more than happy to help. Milwaukee scored five runs in the sixth with the ball leaving the infield just once. Poor pitching and comical defense by the Pittsburgh did most of the hard work.
The Brewers loaded the bases off Pittsburgh reliever Steven Brault, who was then replaced by Michael Feliz with two outs.
Feliz walked in a pair of runs and then three more Brewers scored when his wild pitch skipped toward the Milwaukee dugout. Jesus Aguilar trotted home, Ryan Braun raced in behind Aguilar, and when the throw from Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell got away from Feliz covering the plate, Orlando Arcia scored all the way from first to make it 12-4.
Adam Frazier hit a two-run homer for the Pirates. Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer drove in two runs each in perhaps their final game at PNC Park for Pittsburgh. Both players were integral parts of the franchise’s run to three straight playoff berths from 2013-15 but could be moving on in the offseason. Mercer is eligible to become a free agent, while the Pirates could choose to decline Harrison’s $10.5 million club option for 2018.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle removed both players in the eighth inning. Harrison, a two-time All-Star second baseman, and Mercer, a dependable shortstop, exited to loud ovations.
Miley couldn’t take advantage of the early lead to stick around long enough to collect his fourth straight victory. He allowed the first five batters of the fifth to reach as the Pirates pulled within 7-4, but Knebel came on and struck out the next three.
Kingham was forced to make just his second major-league start since Aug. 1 after the Pirates opted to shut down Joe Musgrove because of a stress reaction in his pelvic bone and an abdominal wall muscle strain.
Five months after holding St. Louis to one hit in his major-league debut, Kingham met a far different fate in his last home start of 2018. He survived a bases-loaded jam by allowing just one run in the first but didn’t make it out of the second.
Brewers: CF Lorenzo Cain went 2 for 5 in his return to the lineup. Cain missed two games and was limited to pinch-hitting duty on Saturday night with an intercostal strain in his ribs.
Pirates: CF Starling Marte was removed after experiencing tightness in his left calf while running down the first-base line in the fourth inning. … C Francisco Cervelli (gastrointestinal discomfort) was available to hit off the bench and should return to the lineup in Chicago on Monday. … RHP Edgar Santana is scheduled to undergo tests on Monday after exiting Friday night’s game with tightness in his right arm.
Brewers: Head to St. Louis for a pivotal three-game series with the Cardinals, who occupy the second wild-card spot. Chase Anderson (9-8, 3.93 ERA) starts on Monday against Jack Flaherty (8-8, 3.08).
Pirates: Begin a four-game series in Chicago on Monday against the Cubs. Jameson Taillon (13-9, 3.24) faces Chicago’s Cole Hamels (9-10, 3.90).
(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)