Long ball propels Bucs past Brewers

Adam LaRoche and Ryan Doumit belted two-run homers in a 5-3 win.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Independence Day and Pittsburgh. Of all the possible combinations of dates and opponents, the Milwaukee Brewers couldn’t have picked anything worse.

Adam LaRoche hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth inning and Ryan Doumit added a two-run drive, leading the Pirates to a 5-3 victory Wednesday over the Brewers — owners of the majors’ worst record on the Fourth of July.

Ian Snell (7-5) withstood Ryan Braun’s three-run homer with none out in the first, settling down to shut out Milwaukee over the next seven innings. The Pirates turned two double plays and Snell didn’t allow any scoring in the seventh despite throwing two wild pitches.

“To go through the next seven innings the way he did is another sign of who is he and what he’s becoming,” manager Jim Tracy said about Snell, whose 2.93 ERA is among the NL’s top five.

Snell, disappointed at being bypassed for the NL All-Star team, was determined after falling behind so quickly to not let the Brewers score any more.

“I have a lot of confidence in myself, and I told myself that’s all they’re going to get,” Snell said. “They’re not getting anybody past second base. I told myself we needed this game and this win.”

The Brewers put a runner on third when Prince Fielder doubled and Johnny Estrada singled with one out in the sixth, but Geoff Jenkins grounded into a double play.

Capps gets eighth save

Matt Capps pitched the ninth for his eighth save in nine attempts. With Estrada on third, Rickie Weeks flied out to the center-field warning track to end it.

“It just kind of died out there,” Milwaukee manager Ned Yost said. “When it left his bat I thought he hit it pretty good.”

Independence Day is certainly no holiday for the Brewers, whose 13-25 record on the Fourth is the worst among clubs with more than 20 games played on the date.

The first-place Brewers stayed 51⁄2 games ahead of the Cubs in the NL Central as Chicago lost 6-0 in Washington, yet they can leave Pittsburgh on Thursday with no better than a split in the four-game series. Again, the Brewers are having trouble winning in a city where the rest of the division has won seven of 12 this season.

“I don’t know why, it’s always tough here,” Yost said. “It’s always a battle for us here. It’s just tough for us right here.”

Nothing new — the Brewers have lost an average of more than two of every three games in Pittsburgh since PNC Park opened in 2001, going 19-39.

The Pirates immediately got a run back in the first when Nate McLouth tripled and scored on Jose Bautista’s sacrifice fly against Claudio Vargas (6-2).

“I feel bad I can’t hold the three-run lead,” Vargas said.

Bucs tie it in fourth

The Pirates tied it at 3 in the fourth when LaRoche walked ahead of Doumit’s line-drive homer deep into the right-field seats on a 2-0 fastball by Vargas, Doumit’s fifth. Vargas had won his last three decisions and was 4-0 with a 1.54 ERA in six career starts against Pittsburgh.

Two innings later, LaRoche followed Freddy Sanchez’s leadoff single with his 11th homer, on a 3-0 pitch after Vargas fell behind in the count again. LaRoche is 13-for-28 with three homers and eight RBIs in seven games to jump his average to .235 — still not good, but better than his .191 on May 25.

“LaRoche, he never swings on a 3-0,” Vargas said. “I’ve never seen him swing before on 3-0, but today it’s bad luck for me.”

Vargas was right. Until the last few days, LaRoche would have gotten the take sign.

“I wouldn’t have [swung] if I wasn’t seeing the ball as well as I am now,” LaRoche said. “I was looking for one pitch and, if it wasn’t there, I’d take a walk or a 3-1 pitch.”

Long before that, Corey Hart ran his hitting streak to 20 games as he and Craig Counsell singled ahead of Braun’s eighth homer of the season, a drive into the center-field bullpen. After that, Snell struck out five and walked one and wasn’t hurt by the other six hits he allowed.

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