MILWAUKEE -- Life without Jimmy Nelson began for the Brewers on Wednesday, when Chase Anderson pitched on short rest in place of Milwaukee's injured ace and led the way to an 8-2 win over the Pirates at Miller Park.
Eric Thames hit a go-ahead two-run home run in a four-run third inning, rookie center fielder Brett Phillips drove in three runs and saved another with a sensational throw home, and the Brewers kept pace with the Cubs in the National League Central. Milwaukee remained 2 1/2 games behind Chicago while moving into second place, one-half game ahead of the Cardinals.
In the race for the second NL Wild Card, the Brewers pulled to within three games of the Rockies with Colorado's loss to the D-backs.
"It's going to take a good stretch to get it done," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We don't have to win all of them, but it's going to take us playing well, and the last two nights, we certainly got a good start on that."
Working on three days' rest for the first time in his career, Anderson surrendered Andrew McCutchen's 200th career home run in the first inning and had little feel for his curveball or cutter, but he managed to get the job done. He scattered seven hits over 5 1/3 innings and limited the Pirates to two runs (one earned) to improve to 5-0 with a 2.34 ERA in 10 starts at home.
"It showed … a lot of gusto," Thames said. "Any time a guy will go out there and throw 90 or 100 pitches on three days' rest, that shows a lot. That means a lot to our team. With Jimmy going down, he kind of put the team on his back and did a great job tonight."
Said Anderson: "I love it. I want to be that guy. There's plenty of guys in this clubhouse that can be that guy, but when you get asked to do it, it's an honor. I hope to do it throughout this September and hopefully in the postseason. I feel strong, I feel healthy, and I think being out [in July and part of August] with the oblique injury kind of set me up for this."
The loss went to Pirates rookie Tyler Glasnow in his return from Triple-A Indianapolis. The right-hander surrendered five earned runs on four hits and a career-high six walks over 2 2/3 innings.
Demoted to Triple-A in June after struggling through 12 starts to start the season, Glasnow simplified his mechanics and saw better results in Indianapolis. He showed some signs of progress Wednesday night -- his fastball velocity ticked up into the high 90s -- but his recurring command issues kept him from searching for silver linings. Glasnow threw 77 pitches, only 40 for strikes, while allowing 10 of the 17 hitters he faced to reach base.
"I'm definitely not happy with the outing. But I'm just going to continue to work and get to the next one," Glasnow said. "First start coming back, I'm just going to forget about this one."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Thirty for Thames: In April, it seemed a cinch that if a Brewers hitter was going to reach the 30-homer plateau, it would be Thames. He cooled significantly over the summer, but dingers on back-to-back nights, including his two-run opposite-field shot off Glasnow on Wednesday to break a 1-1 tie, made Thames the first Brewers batter to belt 30 this season.
"All the work's been paying off. It's kind of cool," said Thames, who averaged 41 homers over the previous three seasons in South Korea. "I know it's the first in the big leagues, but four years in a row with at least 30 home runs, it's a great feeling."
Phillips flexes: Trailing 5-1 after the Brewers' four-run third inning, the Pirates had an opportunity to answer in the fourth after Jordan Luplow's double put a pair of runners in scoring position with one out. Phillips helped Anderson shut down the rally with the defensive play of the game. David Freese tried to tag up and score on Elias Diaz's flyout to center field, but Phillips fired a 104-mph laser home to end the inning. It was the hardest throw recorded by Statcast™ all season.
"Yeah, that might be broken, I don't know," Phillips deadpanned. "I think it was harder." More >
"The consistent velocity. That's a step in the right direction. The ability to throw the changeup, and it had some late movement. He threw some good curveballs. The overall result isn't what anybody was looking for. However, there's some things we need to hang on to and continue to hunt some good for."-- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on Glasnow's outing
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McCutchen's homer was his 25th of the season and the 200th of his career. With that solo shot to left-center field, McCutchen became just the fourth player to hit 200 home runs in a Pirates uniform. The others are all Hall of Famers: Willie Stargell, Ralph Kiner and Roberto Clemente.
Hurdle was ejected three batters into Glasnow's start for arguing balls and strikes with home-plate umpire Bill Welke. Hurdle apparently disagreed with Welke's call on Glasnow's full-count pitch to Neil Walker, and he disagreed even more strongly with Welke's explanation that it was below the strike zone. The 96.9-mph fastball appeared to be within the strike zone, but Welke called it a ball, and Hurdle was ejected quickly after yelling something from the dugout. It was Hurdle's fifth ejection of the season.
"When he told me it was down, I kind of tilted. Down never entered my mind," Hurdle said. "I thought it was strike three to start with. Obviously what I shared with him never entered his mind. … That didn't impact the game greatly. It impacted that at-bat, though."
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: After an off-day on Thursday, the Pirates will begin a three-game series against the Reds on Friday night at Great American Ball Park. Right-hander Chad Kuhl, who owns a 2.99 ERA since July 1, will start the opener for the Bucs against veteran Homer Bailey. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Brewers: For the first time, the Brewers will be the visiting team at Miller Park when the Marlins come to Milwaukee on Friday for the start of a three-game series. It was scheduled to be played in Miami but was relocated on Wednesday to allow more time for Florida to recover from Hurricane Irma. Miami's Adam Conley will throw the first pitch at 7:10 p.m. CT. The Brewers' starter is to be determined.