The Brewers caught the Bucs at their worst in April, destroying the Pirates by a 36-1 count in a three game set and launching them on a season-high seven game skid. The worm has turned.
The Pirates scored three runs in the seventh inning to take control on the way to a 6-4 win. It was the Brew Crew's ninth straight loss. And just like when the Bucs couldn't catch a break during their streak, the baseball gods tied the Brewer's shoelaces together at every opportunity in theirs.
They stranded ten runners on the bases. The Pirates put their game-winning inning together thanks to a pop that dropped, a walk, and two seeing-eye ground ball singles.
Ryan Braun made a heads up play by leading off the ninth with a bunt single when he saw Andy LaRoche playing deep. LaRoche would have the last laugh when Braun stole second as Prince Fielder struck out with the shift on, placing LaRoche behind the bag.
That meant no one was at third - Octavio Dotel admitted he was supposed to cover, but "forgot" - and Braun took off for the open bag. The only problem that was LaRoche was between him and third with the ball, and tagged him out for the oddest double play GW can remember ever seeing.
There was some speculation that since Braun had taken third in similar circumstances during an earlier series, the Pirates had set him up. GW thinks it was a blind pig finding an acorn, but hey - Braun wasn't the tying run; the Brewers were down by a pair; the base made no difference whatsoever. His bad all the way.
It's the kind of play that players trying to shake off a losing spell's bad mojo make, like trying to hit a five-run homer. It just prolongs the agony.
The night's highlights included a three-hit performance by Steve Pearce, who is suddenly hitting .273 as a platoon guy at first, and a pair of knocks by LaRoche and Garrett Jones. Props also have to go to Javier Lopez, who got the win, his first as a Pirate, and Joel Hanrahan, who together faced four batters and K'd every one.
And the Pirate batsmen deserve a team-wide "atta boy." Six different players drove in the six runs, as the Bucs were an uncharacteristic 6-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
And hey, there were lowlights galore, too. Beside Braun's gaffe, Ryan Doumit called time after running down a passed ball...except the runner was still moving, time wasn't given, and it ended up being a two-base mistake. The dependable leather work of Pearce lost a little tarnish as he clanked a pair of balls.
He and Ronny Cedeno also made ill-advised runs from second to third. Pearce got away with his, but Cedeno was eventually retired in a rundown. And a couple of more balls fell into left for hits when Lastings Milledge couldn't run them down from his North Side Notch shift. The scorer even had an off day, ruling two likely errors as hits, one per side.
Paul Maholm takes on Chris Naverson in the second and last game of short Brewer series. Atlanta comes to town for the weekend before the Pirates hit the road again.
-- The Pirates are now 12-0 in games that they lead after seven innings. The back end of the bullpen, now that Octavio Dotel is getting regular work, has been all that.
-- Tim Brown of Yahoo!Sports did an article on coaches that may be at the end of their leash, and rates JR as being in the middle of the pack.
-- Forgot to post this yesterday, but JJ Cooper of Baseball America has a piece on Jose Tabata in the Daily Dish minor league blog.
-- Bradenton OF Quincy Latimore hit his third grand slam of the season last night. He's batting .253 with five homers and 32 RBIs. When three of your five lost balls are grand salamis, that's pretty clutch hitting.
-- Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com takes his stab at projecting the June draft, and has the Pirates down to either Jameson Taillon, the top high school arm in the class, or shortstop Manny Machado, the top prep position player.