MILWAUKEE -- The streak began when Claudio Vargas beat the Pirates more than two years ago as a starter. After he was released, became a reliever and returned in a trade, the Brewers still haven't lost to Pittsburgh at home.
Vargas (1-0) threw a scoreless inning in relief of Yovani Gallardo, pinch-hitter Jody Gerut doubled to score the go-ahead run and Milwaukee rallied off Kevin Hart's wildness for their 20th straight win over the Pirates in Miller Park, beating Pittsburgh 7-3 on Saturday night."It's unbelievable. I played here in '07 and every time they come here, we win, and every time we go there, we lose," said Vargas, who went six scoreless innings in a 10-0 win on May 4, 2007. "It's fun because 20 games straight is real impressive."Andy LaRoche homered for the Pirates, but they couldn't avoid the longest streak by one team over another at home since the Indians beat the Orioles franchise 27 consecutive times at Cleveland Municipal Stadium from 1952-54."Absolutely, there's a sense of urgency," Pirates second baseman Delwyn Young said. "You play every day to win, so we're just trying to win."In this one, Hart (4-4) was wild at costly moments and his defense let him down to keep Pittsburgh winless in Milwaukee since May 3. The Pirates get a final chance Sunday to snap the skid before next season.Hart got the first two outs in the sixth with the game tied at 3, but Jason Kendall singled and stole second when Hart spiked a ball in the dirt.Alcides Escobar followed with a single and Gerut, who was hitless in 17 at-bats against the Pirates this season, doubled to score Kendall. Hart then uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Escobar to score to make it 5-3.Gerut, traded from the Padres for Tony Gwynn Jr. in May, has struggled for several months, but come around in recent weeks and is hitting .333 in his last 39 at-bats in a limited role."Jody has struggled here, [but] he worked hard," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "He's been a model citizen, working hard and when you call his number he's done a good job lately, so good for him."Hart said the at-bat he'd like to have Gerut's at-bat back."The bottom of their lineup kind of killed me tonight," said Hart, who allowed the Brewers seventh, eighth and ninth hitters to go 4 for 7 with a walk and a hit batter.Vargas and the Brewers' bullpen upped their scoreless innings streak in this series to seven after Gallardo labored through five frames, striking out seven but allowing three runs off five hits and three walks."No matter how many innings the starter goes, we've got to keep it up," said Vargas, who was released in spring training last year but returned in a nonwaiver trade deadline deal this season from the Dodgers. "We've got a good group of people in the bullpen."LaRoche, who'd been in a 3 for 29 slump, hit a two-run shot to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead in the fifth after Young's run-scoring double.But Young helped give the lead back in the bottom half of the inning after the second baseman's errant throw let Felipe Lopez reach. Craig Counsell singled to move Lopez to third and Lopez scored on Ryan Braun's double-play grounder.Hart's wildness and a slip by Pirates shortstop Brian Bixler also cost the Pirates two runs in the third.With runners on the corners and one out, Bixler slipped on what could've been an inning-ending double play on a hard-hit ball by Lopez. First baseman Steve Pearce threw to Bixler covering second, but he fell crossing the base and the return throw from his knees was late, allowing Kendall to score."No funny hops. It's just how the game goes. One of those days," said Bixler, who also went 0 for 3 at the plate with three strikeouts.Counsell followed with a single, Hart hit Braun with a pitch to load the bases and walked Prince Fielder to bring in another run."We play very good defense and tonight, it was one of those nights we didn't," manager John Russell said. "Only one error, but a couple of mental errors which cost us some runs."
Braun's sacrifice fly off Phil Dumatrait in the seventh gave Milwaukee a 6-3 lead and Escobar's RBI single in the eighth capped scoring. ... A man wearing a Brett Favre Vikings' jersey was escorted out by security in the eighth. ... Milwaukee was 5-14 in Pittsburgh from Oct. 1, 2005 through the end of 2007, but is 8-6 since. ... Russell again declined to discuss why he benched C Ryan Doumit in the fifth inning of Friday night's 8-6 loss. Doumit wasn't in the lineup and didn't speak to reporters before the game.