Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 11/19/14

 The Pirates were swept out of Milwaukee on Sunday, as a good day at the plate wasn’t enough to overcome another awful start by James McDonald. 

J-Mac continues to drive Pirate fans nuts. He looked SO good in those two games against the Cardinals these last two weeks, but this time came right out and walked the leadoff man on four pitches. Uh oh. Then Pedro Alvarez made an error and Ryan Braun stepped up with two on. He hit a ball to Canada for a 3-0 lead.

The Pirates had picked up a run in the first on a Gaby Sanchez RBI single and got another in the second on a Michael McKenry solo blast, so they would’ve been fine if J-Mac had settled down. He didn’t. The Brewers blasted two more homers in the second inning to bring the lead up to 6-2. McDonald made it all the more frustrating by striking out the side in both innings.

The Pirates AGAIN tried to keep up in the third inning, putting up two more runs on a bases-loaded single by McKenry. The Pirates – for the most part – looked very comfortable at the plate against Milwaukee ace Yovanni Gallardo and constantly worked him for solid at-bats and hard-hit balls. That made McDonald’s struggles even MORE frustrating. Every time the Pirates seemed to climb somewhat close, the Brewers started crushing the ball again. It happened again in the third, when Carlos Gomez blasted a two run shot to knock out J-Mac. He probably should’ve been out before that with the expanded bullpen, but the first reliever Chris Leroux was just as bad. He allowed a homer to the pitcher Gallardo and another two runs on an Aramis Ramirez single.

The Pirates still wouldn’t give up. Brock Holt had a very strong game out of the leadoff spot and singled home two runs in the fifth inning, and Sanchez had drilled a solo bomb to center earlier in the frame. Garrett Jones homered in the sixth, so the Pirates had somehow pulled within three runs.

That’s where the comeback ended, though, as the Pirates managed only Jones’ homer off the much-maligned Brewers bullpen. Milwaukee tacked on another run against Justin Wilson, and once Chris Resop and Tony Watson finally came in and actually pitched well, it was too late.

As I said, the Pirates looked good for most of the game at the plate against a tough pitcher (Gallardo didn’t even last five innings, and every Pirate starter besides Harrison and McDonald reached base against him) but it was completely negated by their horrible failures on the mound. It’s nothing new in this stadium and unfortunately, it’s nothing new with McDonald. I don’t think anybody knows what the deal is with his inconsitency, but it’s maddening and will certainly hinder the Pirates down the stretch as it has for a while now.

Thanks to a decent amount of help around the league, the weekend sweep wasn’t disastrous for the Pirates in the standing–instead it was a missed opportunity to gain ground. They still trail St. Louis by a game and a half and trail Los Angeles by a game. The Bucs have another big opportunity coming up, with a homestand against the Astros and Cubs. Obviously, they should have a great chance to win those two series and can’t really afford to lose them.

Brewers 12, Pirates 8 / Box / 2012 Record: 70-63 / Next: Monday, vs. Astros, 1:35

MVP: McKenry (+.192) / LVP: McDonald (-.605) / Key play: Braun’s HR

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