Although it looked like the Bucs were turning it around against the Brewers in 2012, this series seems to be reverting back to the 2009 Bucs-Brewers games. Despite a great pitching performance, the offense couldn’t pick up the slack, and Milwaukee walked-off to win the series.
A.J. Burnett – who has struggled of late – turned in an impressive start. He actually had a no-hitter going after five innings, but wouldn’t factor into the decision. Pedro Alvarez got the Pirates on the board with his 27th home run of the year – a solo shot to left-center off of Marco Estrada. The Brewers tied it up on some absolutely horrible defense in the third. Carlos Gomez walked to start the inning, and stole his way to third. Rod Barajas had no chance to throw him out, and wasn’t helped by the fact that A.J. barely holds runners on. With Estrada at the plate, Gomez broke for home on what looked like a straight steal. The pitch got right by Barajas, which allowed Gomez to tie the game.
Cutch stroked a one-out double to CF in the fourth, but couldn’t get knocked in. Burnett did a nice job to retire Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart with a runner on second and keep the game tied. In the sixth, the Bucs got their only big opportunity against Estrada. With the bases loaded, Pedro came up. At the moment, he’s the guy you want up there in that situation. With a full count, he fouled off four straight pitches before taking strike three on the corner. A questionable call, but too close to sit back a watch, especially after fouling off four straight.
Estrada finished the seventh with four hits given up and ten strikeouts. Definitely an impressive start, but the Bucs could/should have hit him. In the Brewers’ half of the seventh, Burnett walked Hart with one out. After a groundout moved him up to second, Gomez struck again with a go-ahead RBI-double. That knocked A.J. from the game after a 6.2 inning-two hit-nine strikeout-start. Jared Hughes got the last out of the inning, and A.J. would have to hope for a no-decision.
Brock Holt made his ML debut as a pinch-hitter and drew a four-pitch walk to lead off the eighth. He was sacrificed over to second, and with two outs, Cutch came up. He splintered his bat, but got a ball to drop into shallow CF for a single that tied the game. The RBI was also his 80th of the season.
With the game now tied, Jason Grilli looked to get the game to the ninth with the same score. He gave up a swinging-bunt single that turned into a double thanks to Barajas throwing the ball away. Just when things started to look bleak, Nyjer Morgan stepped up. He’s been known to do some stupid stuff, and this time was no different. He decided he was going to bunt for a hit rather than just getting one down to move the runner to third. This backfired, and he struck out bunting. Grilli got a foulout, and then walked Ryan Braun intentionally to get to Ramirez. Not that Ramirez hasn’t killed the Pirates, but facing him with a force-out intact is much safer than facing Braun with just a runner on second. He fell behind 0-2 before popping out to end the inning. Fantastic work by the SACK man.
John Axford came in for the ninth, and we all saw firsthand last weekend how shaky he’s been. After getting two quick outs, he gave up a single. Michael McKenry and Gaby Sanchez had great ABs and walked to load the bases for Alex Presley. After taking ball one, he looked at three straight strikes, right in the zone. Absolutely atrocious, and we all knew what was coming next.
Clint Hurdle gave the ball to Joel Hanrahan despite the tie game, which was the right move. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out as the second pitch he threw was crushed over the wall by Corey Hart for a walk-off home run.
This is one of those sickening losses. It just sucks. But when you give up four easy stolen bases and then strike out looking with the bases loaded twice, you kind of deserve to lose. It’s just a shame that A.J.’s two-hitter was wasted.
Pirates (70-62) – Brewers (64-68)
Win: Axford (5-7)
Loss: Hanrahan (4-1)