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04/28/09 1:40 AM ET
Crew keeps cool, pulls out win late
Hoffman makes first appearance in a non-save situation
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' resurgent offense took all of the drama out of Trevor Hoffman's long-awaited Brew City debut Monday. Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader was content to sit on 554 for one more day. After the Pirates rallied for two runs in the top of the eighth inning to forge a tie, the Brewers pounced for five runs of their own and Hoffman closed out a 10-5 win in front of 32,198 fans at Miller Park who were eager to see him enter a game with his signature "Hells Bells" tolling. Even if that meant watching Hoffman work with a five-run lead and no save situation in sight. "I'm not into drama," Hoffman said with a smile after a Brewers debut delayed three weeks by a strained rib cage. "So that's fine. Those guys did a great job." Those guys were led by second baseman Rickie Weeks, who hit a three-run homer in the second inning and a go-ahead grounder in the decisive eighth. Mike Cameron and Prince Fielder drove in two runs apiece and Cameron and Ryan Braun hit solo home runs as the Brewers tallied 10 runs for the first time this season. They did it against a Pittsburgh pitching staff that entered the series with the best staff ERA -- 2.97 -- in the Majors. The eighth-inning see-saw sapped some of the drama from Hoffman's entrance, but it extended a somewhat remarkable streak. The Brewers have won 13 games in a row against the Pirates overall, and have also won 16 in a row against Pittsburgh at Miller Park. On each count, that's the longest active winning streak for one big league team over another. "Who says it's going to happen every night?" Cameron said. "But as long as the comfort level is there, that's a very big key to going up to the plate. And it seems like a very long time since we've been home. It was good to have some people cheering for you for a change." There was plenty to cheer, like Cameron's throw home in the first inning that nailed Freddy Sanchez at the plate, helping Brewers starter Braden Looper avoid a total meltdown after the first four Pirates hitters reached safely. Looper surrendered two runs in the inning and only one of them was earned because of a tough error charged to shortstop J.J. Hardy. The Brewers answered quickly. Braun hit a solo home run in the bottom of the first inning to temporarily take the team lead with five homers this season. Weeks hit a go-ahead, three-run blast in the second and Cameron tied Braun atop the leaderboard with his own home run in the third inning. All three came at the expense of Pirates starter Jeff Karstens, who sparked the crowd two batters before Cameron's homer by plunking Braun between the shoulder blades with a suspicious pitch. Plate umpire John Hirschbeck settled things down by issuing warnings to both benches, but Braun wasn't happy. "It's rare for Major League pitchers to miss that much with a fastball," Braun said. "That kind of fueled us a little bit," Cameron said. "I guess if you can't get him out, you just put him on." Looper exited after five innings with a 5-3 lead. He was charged with two earned runs on six hits with four walks and matched a career high with seven strikeouts, five days after he didn't whiff a single batter in Philadelphia. But like Braun, Looper wasn't particularly happy after the game. "I could tell from the bullpen that it was going to be one of those days where it was going to be tough," Looper said. "I did everything I could to try to keep us in the game. I just wasn't able to locate my fastball much, and that's such a big part of my game. ... I was pretty bad to go only five [innings]. That puts such a strain on the bullpen." Mark DiFelice worked a scoreless sixth inning, Mitch Stetter recorded the first two outs of the seventh and Carlos Villanueva finished the seventh and recorded the first two outs of the eighth before one bad pitch cost him. Villanueva was working with two runners on base and an 0-2 count against Sanchez, who turned on a hanging slider for a two-run double that tied the game at 5. The Brewers called on Todd Coffey (1-0) to finish the inning, but Hoffman's save opportunity was lost. Brewers hitters once again responded, this time against Pirates reliever Tyler Yates (0-1). Bill Hall led off with a walk before Yates hit Kendall, who was showing bunt, with a pitch. Both runners advanced on pinch-hitter Craig Counsell's sacrifice bunt before Weeks drove in the go-ahead run with a sharp grounder to a drawn-in Sanchez at second base. Hall broke on contact and scored easily ahead of a slightly off-line throw. The Brewers were off to the races. Corey Hart greeted another reliever, lefty John Grabow, with an RBI double to right field. After an intentional walk to Braun, Fielder delivered a two-run single and Cameron capped the rally with a sacrifice fly. "It was pretty nice when we busted through there," Looper said. "That guy was throwing hard, but our guys were patient. ... I didn't pitch near as well as what I feel I'm capable of today, but the guys put some runs on the board, and that's how you win games." Braun returned the compliment. "We're playing with a little bit of an edge, which I think is a good thing," Braun said. "Our pitching has been great. It starts with starting pitching."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.