Thursday's Top 5: The Brewers own the Pirates


1. The Milwaukee Brewers continue to haunt the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Reds blew out the Cardinals, which gave the Pirates a chance to climb to 3.5 games back in the NL Central. It looked like one of those games the Pirates have found ways to win the past three seasons. Andrew McCutcheon tied it with a home run in the bottom of the eighth, and after the Brewers scored in the 12th, Gregory Polanco homered. But the Brewers scored twice in the 13th off Radhames Liz, Pittsburgh's seventh reliever, to win. We just got a little closer to that Gerrit Cole-Jake Arrieta showdown in the wild-card game.

Remarkably, that's seven straight losses against the Brewers for Pittsburgh. In case you haven't noticed, the Brewers haven't been all that great this season, but the Pirates are 6-10 against both the Brewers and Reds. The Pirates also have a losing record against the Cubs, and they're 8-8 against the Cardinals. The NL Central hasn't been kind to Pittsburgh this year. That's baseball. Unpredictable stuff happens. The Pirates are 15-1 against the Mets, Dodgers and Giants.

Aside from the bad news, the good news was A.J. Burnett returned from six weeks on the DL and pitched five innings. He gave up a two-run homer to Khris Davis and three runs in the first inning, but he settled down after that to throw four scoreless innings. Of course, you can't erase the first inning, but it was an encouraging outing overall.

2. Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians. How does this work for you: Brantley hit go-ahead home runs in the seventh and eighth innings as the Indians beat the Tigers 7-5. Call me crazy, but the Indians aren't out of this wild-card race just yet. They're 69-70 and four games behind the Rangers, and they have 16 of their final 22 games at home. They do have to play the Royals and Twins 14 times, so that won't be easy, but Indians fans can dream a little bit.

3. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners. Felix hasn't had his best season, with a 3.49 ERA, his highest since 2007, but he has won 17 games, the second-most of his career, and he has a chance to win 20 in a season for the first time. He allowed three hits in eight scoreless innings as the Mariners shut out the Rangers for the second straight game. Hernandez was 8-1 with a 1.91 ERA through May. In a June 1 start against the Yankees at Safeco, he was perfect through three innings when it started to rain. The roof was slow to close, and Hernandez fidgeted on a wet mound and gave up seven runs the next two innings. Some have speculated that Hernandez wasn't the same after that and maybe the game exacerbated an ankle injury he had suffered earlier in the season.

Mostly, though, Hernandez's ERA is high because of two blowup outings: 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings Aug. 15 against the Red Sox and eight runs while getting just one out June 12 against the Astros. Take those two games off his ledger, and his ERA is 2.65 and nobody is worried about Felix. Sure, every pitcher looks better when you take out his two worst starts, but those were really bad outings.

4. Bartolo Colon, New York Mets. There could have been a letdown after the Mets swept the Nationals, but there was no letdown. It certainly helped that the Mets played the atrocious Braves. Colon took a shutout into the seventh, set a record for most consecutive scoreless innings by somebody 42 or older, delivered an RBI single and won his 218th career game.

5. David Price versus Luis Severino. OK, that's Friday's matchup because Thursday's game got rained out, but I can't wait for this battle. It's going to be a fun four-game series in the Bronx.