Walker homers, Pirates retake NL Central lead

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Pittsburgh Pirates Neil Walker (18) is congratulated after hitting a three-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Monday, Sept. 2, 2013, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
 
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Neil Walker hit a three-run homer, Charlie Morton pitched seven strong innings and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat Milwaukee 5-2 Monday to retake the NL Central lead.

The Pirates moved one game of St. Louis, which lost earlier in the day at Cincinnati. Pittsburgh won the opener of a nine-game road trip.

Walker broke it open with his homer in the seventh for a 5-1 lead. Jose Tabata added three hits, including a pair of run-scoring singles.

Morton (7-3) gave up seven hits and one earned run. He walked two and struck out six while winning his fourth straight decision.

Mark Melancon pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 12 chances.

Tyler Thornburg (1-1) allowed two runs and six hits in six innings.

The Brewers opened the scoring in the second when Juan Francisco sliced a double that landed just inside the left field line. Francisco scored on a single by Logan Schafer.

The Pirates tied it in the third when Clint Barmes led off with a single and later scored on a single by Tabata.

Milwaukee threatened in the third when Norichika Aoki tried to score on Jonathan Lucroy’s one-out grounder to third. Aoki was tagged out in a rundown by third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who then threw out Lucroy as he attempted to advance to second.

The Brewers loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth but Thornburg struck out swinging.

Barmes led off with a double in the fifth and Tabata singled home the go-ahead run. Thornburg struck out Marlon Byrd with the bases loaded to prevent further damage.

Singles by Morton and Tabata set up Walker’s 10th home run.

The Brewers added a run in the seventh when a soft throw from the outfield skipped under Alvarez’s glove for an error and rolled into the Pirates dugout, allowing Aoki to score from second base.

NOTES: The victory gave the Pirates three consecutive wins in Milwaukee for the first time since 2004. … Milwaukee’s Jean Segura stole his league-leading 39th base in the fifth. … Brewers relief pitcher Tom Gorzelanny left the game with tightness in his left shoulder after throwing just two pitches. … Michael Blazek, acquired by Milwaukee on Sunday from St. Louis as the player to be named in a deal that sent relief pitcher John Axford to the Cardinals, pitched a scoreless inning of relief. … Thornburg made his fourth start of the season and first since Aug. 14.

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