Funny what 33 years does to a rivalry and what only two days did for the Milwaukee Brewers' bullpen.
Maybe it was the lack of name recognition for mostly starless Milwaukee, but only 16,851 fans showed up for the Brewers' 4-2 victory Friday night the first by a Milwaukee team in Pittsburgh since 1965.
It was a disappointing crowd on a mostly clear, warm summer night, but just as discouraging to the Pirates and as encouraging to the Brewers was the finish.
"I'm just glad we got it done," Brewers manager Phil Garner said.
They almost didn't.
Down by two runs, the Pirates quickly loaded the bases in the ninth against Bob Wickman on Kevin Young's walk and singles by Jermaine Allensworth and Jose Guillen.
The Pirates came from behind to win twice in the ninth during a recent seven-game winning streak. And with Milwaukee's bullpen in a state of disrepair following Doug Jones' eighth blown save Wednesday against Kansas City, a rally seemed imminent.
"We now know we have a good chance to win ballgames in those situations," the Pirates' Jason Kendall said.
But with nobody warming up in the Brewers' bullpen, Wickman regrouped to strike out rookie Aramis Ramirez, then got Kevin Polcovich to ground into a game-ending double play for his fourth save.
It looked easy. It wasn't, even after Jose Valentin hit his first two homers since April 27 and Scott Karl (6-3) rebounded from consecutive poor starts to give up two runs over 6 1-3 innings.
"I felt a lot better," Karl said. "The true story was Jose Valentin and the defense. Jose really got the offense going."
That's something that hasn't happened for awhile.
Valentin hit three homers April 3 against Florida and had six by April 27, then didn't homer again until hitting a solo shot off Francisco Cordova to start the third. He hit another leading off the seventh, three innings after RBI singles by Dave Nilsson and Marquis Grissom.
Garner said Valentin stopped hitting homers as soon as he started trying to hit them.
"That's what we've been saying all along about him, when he doesn't try to pull the ball, that's the result," Garner said. "When he does what he's supposed to do, he has as much power from that (left) side as any player in the league."
Karl said, "He's been fighting himself a little bit. I hope he catches fire. He's got a great swing from the left side and he plays shortstop as smoothly as anyone. He's an important guy for us."
Almost as important as Ramirez figures to be soon for the Pirates.
The 19-year-old third baseman hit his firs major league homer in the second inning, and is 8-for-25 since going hitless in his first 24 at-bats. But he couldn't deliver a big hit in the ninth.
"He (Wickman) threw him a nasty slider," Pirates manager Gene Lamont said. "He's only 19 and it's going to take him a while, but once he settles in, he's really going to help the offense."
Guillen had a run-scoring double in the seventh, but the Pirates were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position after that as they lost for only the third time in 12 games.
Notes: It was the first time since the Braves' 5-4 loss on Aug. 22, 1965, that a Milwaukee team played an NL game in Pittsburgh. The Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966. ... Former Pirates manager Chuck Tanner, a Brewers scout who lives in nearby New Castle, Pa., saw his first game of the season in Pittsburgh. His wife, Babs, had a heart attack and stroke in February. ... Karl is 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in three career starts against Pittsburgh. He is 4-1 on the road. ... The teams played an interleague series in Milwaukee last season.
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed