MILWAUKEE (AP) — Eduardo Escobar made one heck of an initial impression on Milwaukee fans in his first home game as a Brewer.
Escobar hit a three-run homer and an RBI triple to back up Eric Lauer’s five shutout innings in the Brewers’ 6-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.
“I’m so happy to have a great game today because the people maybe saw me with different teams, but it’s different when they see you with the home team,” said Escobar, who came to the Brewers on Wednesday via a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. “I’m so happy I had a good game. I’m going to continue every day to come here with my best energy every day and help the team win. That’s the most important thing.”
Escobar’s two-out triple off Kyle Keller in the sixth extended the Brewers’ lead to 2-0. He followed that up by sending a 421-foot drive to right against Nick Mears in the seventh for his 24th home of the season.
He also walked twice to reach base on each of his four plate appearances.
“He adds a professional presence to a really good lineup already, from both sides of the plate,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “There's just a very calming presence for him when he's in the box."
The Brewers' victory had a bittersweet finish.
Milwaukee's John Axford entered the game to a standing ovation in the ninth inning as he made his first major league appearance since 2018, but he retired just one of the five batters he faced before leaving with an elbow injury that will require an MRI.
The Brewers had acquired Axford from the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the day. He last pitched for the Brewers from 2009-13 and still owns the franchise record for saves in a season.
“It’s unfortunate,” manager Craig Counsell said. “The fact that he got himself back here was a real credit to him. You want the story to be good every night. Sometimes there’s some unfortunate stories as well.”
Pittsburgh trailed 6-0 heading into the ninth but brought the tying run to the plate after Axford and Brad Boxberger each issued bases-loaded walks. Boxberger ended the comeback attempt by striking out Phillip Evans to earn his fourth save in six opportunities.
Bryse Wilson (2-4) worked five innings and allowed just one run in his Pirates debut, but the Brewers feasted on Pittsburgh’s bullpen after his departure.
Wilson came to the Pirates along with minor league pitcher Ricky DeVito in a Friday trade with Atlanta.
“Just trying to come into the new situation with a completely open mind,” Wilson said. “Good restart. Good reset. Continue to improve my craft and just put the team in a situation to win every time we go out. It's been a good transition so far.”
Lauer (4-4) allowed just three hits, struck out three and walked nobody. He also hit a batter. In his last six appearances, Lauer has given up only five runs over 31 1/3 innings.
“He’s done a nice job for us all year,” Counsell said. “He’s been consistent.”
The Brewers took the lead for good in the third inning. Lorenzo Cain led off with an infield single, stole second, moved to third on Lauer’s bunt hit and scored on Kolten Wong’s sacrifice fly.
Milwaukee broke the game open with a pair of two-out rallies against Pirates relievers.
The Brewers had two outs and none on in the sixth before Omar Narváez walked and scored on Escobar's triple into the right-field corner. Keller later walked Tyrone Taylor on a 3-2 pitch outside with the bases loaded to extend Milwaukee’s lead to 3-0.
Mears' problems in the seventh started when Wong hit a one-out single that went off the right-hander's leg. Mears later gave up a the three-run blast to Escobar.
“It really wasn't the comebacker,” Shelton said. “The comebacker hit him on the back of the thigh. He twisted his ankle on the way down, and that's what we were checking. The longer he was out there, the more it stiffened up. It was more that he rolled his ankle than it was getting hit by the line drive. As he retreated to field the ball, he twisted his ankle.”
Brewers closer Josh Hader and Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl went on the COVID-19 injured list after both tested positive.
Milwaukee reinstated utilityman Jace Peterson from the injured list and optioned infielder Pablo Reyes to Triple-A Nashville.
The Pirates called up pitcher Shea Spitzbarth from Triple-A Indianapolis. Spitzbarth worked 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief Monday in his first major league appearance.
This three-game series continues Tuesday night with a matchup of right-handers as Max Kranick (1-2, 7.31 ERA) starts for Pittsburgh and Adrian Houser (7-5, 3.69) pitches for Milwaukee.
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Steve Megargee, The Associated Press