Brault does it all during 'impressive night'

Brault does it all during 'impressive night'

MILWAUKEE -- Steven Brault hit nearly .400 in his final season as a college pitcher/outfielder at Regis University, and he's been even better than that in the Minor Leagues. So nobody in the Pirates' dugout was shocked to see him pull a double to right field, then rip a two-run single to center on Monday night.

The more significant development for Brault was not his swing, but the Brewers' swings -- more specifically, their swings and misses. Brault held Milwaukee to one hit, struck out six over six innings and earned his first Major League win in Pittsburgh's 7-0 victory at Miller Park.

"It's an impressive night," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's one he'll always remember."

It was an important step forward for Brault, coming off a dominant season in Triple-A Indianapolis' rotation. He moved out of the Pirates' bullpen last week to start against the Cubs but struggled to put away hitters, working five innings without a strikeout. He threw 91 pitches that night, and the Cubs swung and missed at only five of them.

Monday was an entirely different story. For three innings, he was perfect. He walked Ryan Braun in the fourth, then gave up a leadoff single to Jesus Aguilar in the fifth, but didn't let a runner reach second base. The Brewers swung and missed at 10 fastballs and two changeups, giving Brault a career-high 12 swinging strikes.

"My work throughout the week and then getting here tonight was, 'I'm going to finish hitters. I'm going to get ahead of hitters and I'm going to finish them,'" Brault said. "I think I did a lot better job of that tonight."

That mentality was the key to Brault's success this year in Triple-A, where he posted a 1.94 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 120 1/3 innings. According to Statcast™, 76 of Brault's 92 pitches Monday night were fastballs.

"It's just aggressive. Aggressive, aggressive, aggressive," Brault said. "We're going to go at these guys with fastballs until they hit it. That's what we stuck with the whole game. We mixed in some offspeed, but a lot of times it was let's attack, let's see what we can do."

The plan worked. Brault and catcher Elias Diaz worked up in the zone and pounded pitches in on Milwaukee's right-handed hitters, opening up the outer half of the strike zone. Hurdle also pointed to the late life on Brault's fastball, which made it even harder to square up.

"I think a big part of it has been the intent and commitment to it, just saying, 'Here it is. Hit it,'" Brault said. "For some reason, that makes it come out of my hand just a little bit better."

Brault didn't have to come up with an explanation for his success at the plate. He doubled to right and scored on Starling Marte's homer in the fifth inning, then he slapped a single up the middle off Jared Hughes in the sixth to give himself a six-run lead. The 2-for-3 night raised his professional batting average to .375.

"He works hard. He's a good athlete. He can swing the bat," Hurdle said. "That's what people have talked about since we've had him in the organization."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.