PITTSBURGH -- Russell Martin hit a three-run homer off Jonathan Broxton in the bottom of the eighth inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates inched closer to a playoff berth with a 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday night.
Martin sent a Broxton fastball into the seats beyond the center field wall for his 11th home run of the season and easily his most important. Mark Melancon worked a perfect ninth for his 31st save as the Pirates moved 4 1/2 games in front of the Brewers for the second National League wild card spot with nine days left in the regular season.
John Holdzkom (1-0) earned the win in relief for his first major league victory. The Pirates have won a season-high five straight.
The Brewers, who led the NL Central for most of the summer, are now in danger of missing out on the playoffs entirely after losing their third in a row. They let a 2-0 lead get away late on Thursday night against St. Louis and fell in extra innings.
Milwaukee arrived in Pittsburgh at 4 a.m. on Friday morning hoping to revive its season against a team it has dominated for years, including an 11-5 mark this season.
Gallardo did his part. He escaped early trouble and then settled down, retiring nine of the final 10 batters he faced before giving way to Broxton after 112 leave-it-all-out-there pitches.
The Pirates stranded six runners in the first four innings against Gallardo with nothing to show for it, but wasted little time getting to Broxton. Starling Marte led off the eighth by barely beating out an infield hit and Neil Walker singled one out later.
Enter Martin, who has been the backbone of Pittsburgh's slow rally from a miserable 12-20 start. At one point in May, the Pirates trailed the Brewers by 9 1/2 games in the standings.
Martin pounced on a 96 mph fastball and sent the 21st sellout crowd of the year into a frenzy.
Brewers: Milwaukee 1B Mark Reynolds was back in the lineup on Friday, going 0 for 3 less than 24 hours after a rare mental mistake opened the door to a late St. Louis rally. With a runner on first and one out in the eighth on Thursday, Reynolds took a sharp grounder and stepped on first before beginning to walk to the dugout thinking the inning was over rather than try to turn a double play. The Cardinals took advantage of the reprieve to tie the game at 2 before eventually winning in 13 innings.
Manager Ron Roenicke had no qualms about writing Reynolds' name on the lineup card.
"This guy, instinctually, is unbelievable," Roenicke said. "That's why when you see those things happen, it's surprising. And, you know, why couldn't you do it in a game that didn't matter? Or a month ago, when maybe we were winning 6-0 in a game and you make a mistake? It's just when he made it that was so tough."
Pirates: RHP Charlie Morton's return from the disabled list may be short-lived. Pittsburgh pulled Morton from his next scheduled start on Sunday after he felt discomfort in his groin and midsection late in his five innings of work in a victory over Boston on Tuesday. The pain intensified during a bullpen session on Thursday. Vance Worley will take Morton's spot in the rotation when the Pirates wrap up the series with Milwaukee.
Morton will meet with an orthopedic surgeon in Nashville before determining his status beyond the weekend. Worley is 7-4 with a 3.18 ERA in 15 starts for Pittsburgh since being called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on June 15.
Brewers: Matt Garza (8-8, 3.74 ERA) will make his third start against the Pirates this season. The right-hander is 1-0 with a 6.55 ERA versus Pittsburgh. He is coming off six solid innings in a victory over Cincinnati last Sunday.
Pirates: Edinson Volquez (12-7, 3.27 ERA) will search for his fifth straight victory when he faces the Brewers on Saturday. The 30-year-old is 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in four starts against Milwaukee this season.