It’s been a tough stretch of game the past six weeks for the Bucs, culminating with their record reaching .500 last night, and falling below tonight. Fittingly, the Brewers completed the sweep with a comeback win that brought the Pirates to 74-75.
Kyle McPherson made his first career start. The Brewers got out to an early lead when Norichika Aoki hit the second pitch of the game into the seats for a home run. McPherson settled down for a few inning, before giving up one more run in the fifth. He was pulled after 4.1 innings.
Marco Estrada was dominant for seven innings, giving up no runs on three hits. He was the difference in the game, driving in two runs himself, which won the 3-1 game for the Brewers.
John Axford came in for the save with the 3-0 lead, but couldn’t keep the Pirates off the board as Andrew McCutchen crushed a lead-off home run to the opposite field. With one out, Pedro Alvarez reached on a broken-bat single, bringing the tying-run to the plate. But Axford calmed down, retiring the next two batters to get the save.
The Pirates went 0-5 with runners in scoring position, and left six men on base.
Pirates (74-74) – Brewers (76-72)
Win: Estrada (4-6)
Loss: McPherson (0-1)
Save: Axford (30)
The Pirates sent Wandy Rodriguez to the mound to restore some order and get the team back above .500. The Brewers got three runs off Wandy in the first before he even got an out, and wasn’t looking too optimistic. They got one more in the third, but the Bucs kept fighting.
Cutch smashed his 30th home run of the year – a three-run bomb to CF – and suddenly the Pirates were back in this game. They loaded the bases in the fourth with two singles and a walk, and Wandy was pulled for a pinch-hitter. Alex Presley grounded into a fielder’s choice that brought home one run, but there were still runners on the corners. Presley moved up on a wild pitch, which set a great opportunity for Starling Marte to give the Bucs the lead with just a sac-fly. He struck out swinging, and Travis Snider couldn’t come through with two outs, but at least the game was tied.
Jared Hughes was the first guy out of the bullpen and overcame an error in the fifth to pitch a scoreless inning. He got into a jam in the sixth, but Tony Watson came in to retire the last two batters and keep the game tied.
Suddenly, the Bucs exploded and turned the game completely around. Clint Barmes blasted a solo shot that made it 5-4, but that was just the beginning. Rod Barajas brought his average back to .200 with a single, and Jeff Clement doubled him over to third. Marte singled in one run, and stole second off of Jose Veras to put runners on second and third. Snider kept it rolling with a sacrifice-fly, and the Bucs took a three-run lead.
Jason Grilli made a rare seventh inning-appearance, which was the right move against the meat of the Milwaukee order. He hit Ryan Braun and walked a batter, but got through the inning with the score still at 7-4. With Grilli done, someone else would have to get the game to Joel Hanrahan, and Clint Hurdle called on Chad Qualls. We all knew what was coming next.
Qualls threw two pitches and both were hit for singles. He got the first out, but then gave up a double to Norchika Aoki that scored one run. Chris Resop came in to get through the inning, but couldn’t get the job done. After intentionally-walking Braun, he gave up a two-run triple to Rickie Weeks into the notch, and the game was suddenly 8-7 in favor of the Brewers.
Milwaukee got one more run in the ninth, but the Bucs had no chance of coming back against Axford, anyway. Very, very, very depressing loss.
Pirates (74-75) – Brewers (77-72)
Win: Manny Parra (2-3)
Loss: Resop (1-4)
Save: Axford (31)