There are two primary types of Pirates losses in Milwaukee. The first was the one you saw on Monday, when the Bucs just get blown out. Tuesday was different, but just as painful. The Bucs took advantage of whatever makes Miller Park so great to hit in and crushed several homers of their own, but as usual they were outgunned and lost in a long, back-and-forth battle.
James McDonald was predictable for once – it was Miller Park, after all, so “bad J-Mac” showed up. James had no command early on, which hurt him despite having decent stuff (93 MPH fastball, OK curve). He walked four in the first two innings and paid for it with a 3-spot in the second. The Brewers were able to hit him quite a bit as well in the third (two consecutive doubles) and fourth (HBP and then four consecutive hits). The result: 7 earned runs in a hurry. At least he managed to go five innings (which, sadly, is the average duration of a Pirate starting pitcher’s outing this year). This was an ugly outing for James and he will need to turn things around in his next start to avoid potentially losing his rotation spot when Charlie Morton is ready to come up.
The craziest thing about this game might be the fact that McDonald left the game in line for a WIN, despite allowing seven runs. That’s because the Pirate offense had an enormous day. The Bucs finally got to Marco Estrada, who they hadn’t solved in several previous outings. Once again, they put a quick run on the board in the first. Starling Marte led off with a double and scored after singles by Russell Martin and Andrew McCutchen. They went on to load the bases with one out but missed a chance to break the game open – Pedro popped out and Inge struck out.
Once J-Mac had put them in a hole, the Bucs resorted to the long ball to dig out of it. It was a startling and very impressive display, really. Gaby Sanchez drilled an opposite field blast in the third to get two runs back. Martin and McCutchen went back-to-back with MAMMOTH blasts in the fifth, keeping the game close. And Starling Marte delivered the biggest blow – a three run homer to dead center with two outs that put the Bucs ahead in the top of the sixth. Suddenly the game had become a thrilling one rather than yet another depressing blowout at Miller.
The Bucs still had to get 12 outs, though, and even though they were able to hand the lead over to the bullpen, you got the feeling it was going to take more runs. Indeed, for only the second time this year (and the first time resulting in a loss), the bullpen failed to protect a Pirate lead. Vin Mazzaro came on for the sixth and gave up a homer on the very first pitch he threw. He then put two more men on base and left the game with a semi-injury, and Bryan Morris cleaned up the mess. Morris came back out for the next inning, though, and yielded a bomb on the first pitch HE threw. 9-8 Brewers.
It was just a one run game, but at that point the usual dread had set in and the Pirates couldn’t muster any more runs. They put two men on base in both the seventh and eighth but couldn’t cash in. After that, Tony Watson had a horrific outing in the bottom of the eighth and ended any hopes of a comeback by allowing three runs on a Rickie Weeks blast.
The Bucs have dropped their first series in a long time and are going to have a tough time avoiding a sweep on Wednesday. The Miller Park horrors are back, and just when it looked like the Bucs were on their way to a statement comeback win, the Brewers instead ended those hopes in utterly painful fashion. Again.
The Bucs are no longer in first – they sit a half-game back of the Cardinals.
One enormous bright spot from the game was Andrew McCutchen. Cutch (who had been mired in a pretty big slump) started hitting the ball hard late in Monday’s game and continued that with a brilliant game on Tuesday – he had four hits – all well struck – and the homer was a towering blast to right center. He’s at his best when he’s hitting the ball hard in that direction.
Former Bucco Tom Gorzelanny picked up the win in relief. He came up huge in the seventh by getting Pedro to bounce in to a DP. Pedro had a brutal game and was the only Pirate starting position player without a hit.
Brewers 12, Pirates 8 / Box / 2013 Record: 15-12 / Next: Wednesday, at Brewers, 1:10