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Pirates rally past Brewers 4-3

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PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 18: Junior Guerra #41 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after giving a a two run home run to Josh Harrison #5 of the Pittsburgh Pirates (not pictured) during the sixth inning at PNC Park on July 18, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH — Francisco Cervelli and Josh Harrison homered during a sixth-inning rally and the streaking Pittsburgh Pirates welcomed outfielder Starling Marte back with a 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night, July 18th.

Marte went 1 for 3 in his return from an 80-game suspension for violating the performance-enhancing drug policy. He also walked in the sixth, coming around to score on Harrison’s 11th home run of the season that tied the game. David Freese put the Pirates ahead to stay with an RBI single off reliever Oliver Drake (3-3) later in the inning.

Ivan Nova (10-6) survived six innings to get the win. Felipe Rivero worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the ninth for his eighth save. Pittsburgh won its third straight and pulled within five games of the first-place Brewers in the crowded NL Central.

Travis Shaw went 3 for 4, including a three-run homer off Nova in the third but was ejected in the eighth for arguing with home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski. Eric Thames, Hernan Perez and Manny Pina all had two hits each but Milwaukee left eight runners on while losing its third straight for the first time since early June.

Marte admitted he was worried about how he would be received three months removed from a misstep that delivered an early gut punch to the Pirates, one from which they have only recently recovered. Judging by the ovation from the fans in the left field seats when the two-time Gold Glover jogged out to his post before the first pitch, all appears to be forgiven. The applause grew louder when he made a sliding grab on a sinking liner by Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun – who still gets booed at PNC Park four years removed from his own PED suspension – to end the inning.

There was a small undercurrent of boos when Marte stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the first as “El Tarjetero” played over the loudspeakers. Yet when popped out in his first at-bat in 91 days, the concerns about his return being a distraction – at home at least – disappeared and it was on to his team’s current matter of business: trying to elbow its way into the division race behind the front-running Brewers.

Milwaukee pounded Nova over six innings but only managed three runs, all coming on a towering shot to the concourse in right-center field by Shaw with one out in the third, the third baseman’s fifth extra-base hit in his last 11 at-bats against Nova and 21st homer of the season.

It could have been worse for the Pirates, but a single by Thames clipped teammate Domingo Santana between first and second and Perez was caught stealing later in the inning.

Still, it looked like it would be enough early as Junior Guerra faced the minimum over his first five innings in his return from a trip to the disabled list with a right shin contusion.

It all unraveled in the sixth. Cervelli led off with a home run and Marte started a two-out rally with a walk. Harrison tied it with a home run into the right-field seats and Freese gave the Pirates the lead when slapped a single to right off Drake to bring home Andrew McCutchen.