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PITTSBURGH (AP) — Jonathan Broxton let loose a 96 mph fastball at Pittsburgh's Russell Martin, then turned and watched as it disappeared into the darkness.
Kind of like Milwaukee's fading playoff chances.
Martin hit a go-ahead, three-run homer off Broxton in the bottom of the eighth to spark the Pirates to a 4-2 victory on Friday night and deliver another blow to the Brewers' chances of reaching October.
"I was trying to go down-and-away," Broxton said. "I don't know where it was. I don't watch the videos."
Good thing. Otherwise he might want to burn this one as Milwaukee dropped 4½ games behind the Pirates in the race for the second National League wild card spot.
The Brewers took a 2-0 lead into the eighth behind a solo homer from Rickie Weeks, an RBI single by Jonathan Lucroy, and seven dominant innings from Yovani Gallardo. And for a second consecutive night, the late advantage vanished as Milwaukee dropped its third straight.
On Thursday, a rare mental blunder by first baseman Mark Reynolds allowed St. Louis to tie the game in the eighth before winning in 13 innings. Less than 24 hours later, the mistake was a physical one.
Broxton (4-3) gave up singles to Starling Marte and Neil Walker before Martin stepped in with one out. The catcher made two ugly checked swings before reaching out at Broxton's heater and sent it into the third row of seats in right-center field for his 11th homer of the season and by far his most important.
"It's hard to be happier than that," Martin said.
Or more devastated than the Brewers. Milwaukee led the NL Central for 149 consecutive days from April 5-Aug. 31 but needs to get hot and get some help in other places to catch the Pirates.
"When you go to late innings, we're used to putting games away," manager Ron Roenicke said. "We've been really good all year in finishing out games and we're not doing it right now. At least in the last two days."
John Holdzkom (1-0) earned the win in relief for his first major league victory. Mark Melancon worked a perfect ninth for his 31st save for the Pirates, who have won a season-high five straight.
Milwaukee arrived in Pittsburgh at 4 a.m. on Friday morning after the meltdown in St. Louis hoping to revive its season against a team it has dominated for years, including an 11-5 mark this season.
Gallardo did his part. He escaped early trouble and then settled down, retiring nine of the final 10 batters he faced before giving way to Broxton after 112 leave-it-all-out-there pitches.
"I think I made pitches when I needed to and gave the guys a chance to come back and swing the bats," Gallardo said.
When Gallardo gave way to Broxton, the Pirates pounced. Milwaukee acquired the burly reliever on Aug. 31 believing he would bolster the bullpen for an expected pennant race. It's a chase that has stalled in a place where Broxton has struggled. His career ERA at PNC Park is now 13.17.
Brewers: Milwaukee 1B Mark Reynolds was back in the lineup on Friday, going 0 for 3 less than 24 hours after a rare mental mistake opened the door to a late St. Louis rally.
Roenicke had no qualms about writing Reynolds' name on the lineup card.
"This guy, instinctually, is unbelievable," Roenicke said. "That's why when you see those things happen, it's surprising. And, you know, why couldn't you do it in a game that didn't matter? Or a month ago, when maybe we were winning 6-0 in a game and you make a mistake? It's just when he made it that was so tough."
Pirates: RHP Charlie Morton's return from the disabled list may be short-lived. Pittsburgh pulled Morton from his next scheduled start on Sunday after he felt discomfort in his groin and midsection late in his five innings of work in a victory over Boston on Tuesday. The pain intensified during a bullpen session on Thursday. Vance Worley will take Morton's spot in the rotation when the Pirates wrap up the series with Milwaukee.
Brewers: Matt Garza (8-8, 3.74 ERA) will make his third start against the Pirates this season. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 6.55 ERA versus Pittsburgh. He is coming off six solid innings in a victory over Cincinnati last Sunday.
Pirates: Edinson Volquez (12-7, 3.27 ERA) will search for his fifth straight victory when he faces the Brewers on Saturday. The 30-year-old is 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in four starts against Milwaukee this season.
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