MILWAUKEE — Eric Thames is figuring out how to excel as a part-time player.
Thames homered leading off the eighth inning to lead the Milwaukee Brewers past the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 on Sunday.
Thames, who has served as a backup first baseman and outfielder this season, entered as a pinch-hitter in the sixth and struck out.
Leading off the eighth, he blasted an 0-1 pitch from Pirates reliever Kyle Crick (3-4) to straightaway center, a 432-foot shot that hit just below the scoreboard for his 12th homer of the season. Thames also homered in Milwaukee's win on Saturday night.
"I told myself in spring training that regardless of what happened in regard to playing time, I was just going to stick to my routine, keep working and good things would happen,"
Thames said. "Last year, my thumb got hurt and I wasn't able to perform as a pinch-hitter. I got so caught up in the results that I spiraled out and didn't make the (postseason) roster."
Even though he's faring better this year, it can still be a struggle to enter a game in the late innings.
"That first at-bat tonight, I felt like I was on Mars," he said. "It's tough being a pinch-hitter in the big leagues. You can't work an at-bat on a reliever who throws 96 with rise and sink and a nasty slide. You have to get something to hit and swing."
Milwaukee took two of three from its NL Central rival and moved into a first-place tie with the Chicago Cubs, who lost to Cincinnati. The Brewers finished their homestand at 5-5.
Jeremy Jeffress (2-2) pitched a scoreless eighth, and Matt Albers worked the ninth to pick up his first save of the season. Milwaukee held Pittsburgh to two runs in two games.
"They are more than a hitting team," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Milwaukee's Zach Davies, who had an 8.10 ERA over his previous four starts, allowed one run and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.
He walked two and struck out two. He also drove in the Brewers' first run with a two-out single in the fourth after the Pirates intentionally waked Manny Piña.