PITTSBURGH – Matt Garza provided the edge, even if it ended his night early.
The Milwaukee Brewers took it from there, tightening the NL wild-card race with a contentious 1-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.
Garza was ejected in the fifth inning after hitting reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen for a second time. The bullpen stepped in and kept the surging Pirates at bay with 4⅓ shutout innings. The Brewers scored the game’s only run on when Elian Herrera sprinted home on Logan Schafer’s sacrifice fly off Mark Melancon (3-5) in the ninth.
Milwaukee drew within 3½ games of the Pirates for the last playoff spot with eight days left in the regular season by winning for just the second time in its last 13 road games.
“We knew what we had to do and we know how things have been going,” manager Ron Roenicke said.
The Brewers celebrated loudly in the hallway leading to the clubhouse, the kind of fire that’s been missing during their lengthy September swoon. Garza, however, stoked the fire with 4⅔ strong innings. His work included two run-ins with McCutchen.
Garza hit the Pittsburgh star center fielder on the left shoulder in the third then grazed McCutchen’s elbow with the bases empty two innings later. Both plunkings came with two outs and the bases empty, hardly the kind of pitches meant to send a message.
“If people think I hit McCutchen on purpose, with a 1-2 count in a game like this, then you’re just an idiot,” Garza said.
Garza had hit just two batters in 158 innings coming in. McCutchen — who went to the disabled list in August with fractured rib cartilage shortly after getting drilled while playing in Arizona — figures Garza was just trying to work inside when the pitches got away from him.
“He didn’t try to hit me but he got it in and I’m sure he’s thinking it’s better he hit me than me hit him with a homer or double or something,” McCutchen said.
Zach Duke (5-1), a former All-Star with the Pirates, picked up the victory after getting the final out of the eighth.
Padres 3, Giants 2
In San Diego, Andrew Cashner pitched brilliantly into the ninth inning and the Padres kept San Francisco from advancing on NL West-leading Los Angeles.
The Giants remain 3½ games behind the Dodgers, who lost to the Cubs. San Francisco is one game ahead of Pittsburgh in the race for the top wild-card spot.
Cubs 8, Dodgers 7
In Chicago, Chris Coghlan hit two homers, including the go-ahead two-run drive off Brian Wilson in the eighth inning, and the Cubs rallied to beat the Dodgers.
Coghlan tied career highs with four hits and three RBIs. He had a leadoff homer in the first and fell a triple shy of the cycle. He also scored three times, helping Chicago wipe out a five-run deficit.
Los Angeles blew a five-run lead and wasted a pair of homers and five RBIs by Adrian Gonzalez.
Cardinals 8, Reds 4
In St. Louis, Tony Cruz hit a three-run homer and the Cardinals connected three times, beating Cincinnati and moving closer to their fourth straight playoff berth.
St. Louis cut its magic number to one for clinching a postseason berth. The magic number is five for their second NL Central title in a row.
Nationals 3, Marlins 2
In Miami, Ryan Zimmerman had two hits, including an RBI triple, in his return to the lineup and Washington beat the Marlins.
Zimmerman, who missed 55 games because of a hamstring injury, had his run-scoring triple to key the Nationals’ three-run seventh inning.
Mets 4, Braves 2
In Atlanta, the slumping Braves were shut down by Jonathon Niese and lost to New York, damaging their flickering playoff hopes.
Jonathon Niese (9-11) allowed two runs in 7⅓ innings. Jenrry Mejia then worked the ninth for his 27th save in 30 chances.
Dilson Herrera and Curtis Granderson homered for the Mets.
Rockies 5, Diamondbacks 1
In Denver, Eddie Butler pitched six solid innings for his first major league win and the Rockies beat the Diamondbacks.
Corey Dickerson and Josh Rutledge homered for the Rockies, who have won five straight for the first time since June 11-15.