On Thursday, the Brewers played good enough to earn manager Ned Yost's 300th win at the helm of the team. Set-up man Derrick Turnbow surrendered his first two runs of the season as Pittsburgh pulled to within two runs in the eighth, but closer Francisco Cordero struck out the side in the ninth to preserve his perfect ERA and notched his fifth save.
After setting a season-high with 15 hits in Wednesday's series opener, the Brewers finished with 13 hits on Thursday. Kevin Mench had six hits in the series -- three in each game. Hardy finished with four RBIs, and Rickie Weeks scored twice.
"Today was really all about the offense," Suppan said. "They came out early and set the tone, and it was my job just to stay out of the big inning."
It appeared Suppan (2-2) was in for a big inning right off the bat. But somehow he worked around two misplayed grounders, one outright error and a hit batsmen without the Pirates scoring a run. The Brewers then pounced on Duke (1-2) for four runs in the bottom half of the frame.
Hardy, who had been scalding the ball all week with little to show for it, finally saw some positive results. The Brewers shortstop snapped an 0-for-11 drought with a two-run home run in the first inning and also hit a two-run single in the fourth, a rally aided by Suppan's "slash" single.
Hardy's double in the second inning meant he was a triple shy of the cycle, and Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche asked in the fourth inning if Hardy intended to complete the feat.
"Not likely," Hardy told LaRoche.
But Hardy was timed as the team's third-fastest player in a Spring Training 60-yard dash. Why was a triple so out of the question?
"Because the 60 was in a straight line," Hardy joked. "I'm not as good running the bases."
Still, it was good to find paydirt. Hardy had been hitting the ball hard all week, particularly in his first two at-bats of Wednesday's 0-for-4 night. He raised his batting average 30 points with Thursday's 3-for-5.
"Lately, I had been getting down on myself because I wasn't getting any hits, even though I was feeling good at the plate," Hardy said. "It was nice to get off to a good start today early in the game, and keep the lead the whole way through it."
The Brewers never trailed in the two games, though Thursday's finale got a bit close for comfort when Turnbow surrendered two Pirates runs in an eighth inning rally set up by two walks. Before Thursday, Turnbow had not allowed a run in eight outings.
Turnbow escaped further damage, and Cordero then shut the door in the ninth. He ended the game with a strikeout of reigning National League batting champ Freddy Sanchez, who went 0-for-5 including four punchouts. Cordero got Sanchez with three consecutive sliders.
In seven scoreless outings this season, Cordero has surrendered one hit. He has struck out 13 batters versus two walks. Has he ever been in a groove like this before?
"Back in '04," Cordero said, referring to his All-Star season in Texas. "That was a great year for me, an unbelievable year. I kind of feel like that, on a roll where I have all my pitches working."
Suppan won his second straight start by working six innings, allowing three runs on six hits, including Xavier Nady's sixth-inning, two-run home run. Suppan walked one and struck out three, and left the game at the 95-pitch mark.
To get there, he had to get through that ugly top of the first. Chris Duffy led off with a smash to second baseman Rickie Weeks' backhand that was ruled an infield hit. Jack Wilson then dropped a bunt fielded by first baseman Prince Fielder, but Weeks did not cover first. Another infield hit. Freddy Sanchez followed with a grounder to third baseman Tony Graffanino, who stepped on third for the first out but then bounced a throw past Fielder for an error, leaving runners at second and third. Suppan hit LaRoche with a pitch, loading the bases.
But the Brewers veteran escaped when Jason Bay hit a broken-bat line drive to shortstop Hardy, who caught it and stepped on second base to double off Sanchez.
"You find ways to cover it," Yost said. "That's what we're doing right now. If you're not going to play stellar defense, you had better cover it offensively, and they are. It's always a good sign when you're not playing your best baseball but you're still winning baseball games."