Quiet enough start to the game. The Bucs hit three balls sharply, but right at Brew Crew infielders; Milwaukee's only runner came thanks to Lyle Overbay's two out boot, when he let Ryan Braun's one hopper eat him up.
The Bucs made Gillardo work to the tune of 30 pitches in the second, but couldn't score. Neil Walker lined a knock to right and Pedro walked. Lyle Overbay and Chris Snyder flew out. Ronny Cedeno frew a work-around walk, and J-Mac put up a fight, running the count to 3-2, but went down swinging at a 94 MPH heater.
Apparently it didn't tire him out any; he K'ed the first two Brewers on the way to a 1-2-3 frame.
Pittsburgh got a break in the third, not that it helped. With one away, Jose Tabata walked. He broke for second too soon, and was picked off. At least, he would have been if a tag would have been made; JT ducked under it, according to ump Chris Conroy (the replay was inconclusive). But all it did was raise manager Ron Roenicke's blood pressure a bit; Garrett Jones and Walker become routine outs. The Bucs were 0-for-5 with RISP over three frames
In an unusal aside, Conroy looked to his bro umps for help; they wisely told him his call would stand. It would have been news at eleven stuff to see Clint Hurdle's reaction if they had reversed the call.
It didn't work out so well for J-Mac; Jonathan Lucroy homered on a 3-1 heater. Gallardo dribbled an infield knock, and Ricky Weeks doubled to put runners at second and third with no outs. He fell behind Carlos Gomez 3-1, but came back to K him. Ryan Braun brought in a run when his grounder to third hung up Weeks, who was tagged out as Gallardo scored.
That caused a small riot as Weeks took exception to Ronny Cedeno's tag and put the shoulder into the Bucco SS. Both benches emptied - Ryan Doumit led the charge for the Pirates - but nothing of consequence happened other than to show the two teams disdain for one another.
J-Mac apparently didn't want a piece of Prince Fielder; he walked him on four pitches, only one pitch even close to sharing a zip code with the plate. Braun stole third with Casey McGehee up, but McDonald threw a fastball past him after falling behind 3-1 for the third time in the inning.
Overbay singled on a rope to right with one out in the fourth, between Pedro and Snyder Ks. Cedeno showed his love for the Brewers by whacking his first long ball of the year into center to tie the game. Howzat for a hard tag, Ricky? Dewey was the first to high-five RC; maybe an old-fashioned ball game will break out tonight. Then again, it is Milwaukee; probably not.
GW is old school, if you haven't noticed, and still fondly remembers the days when opposing players didn't hook up for drinks after the game. And that's as it should be, although there's little danger of the Brewers and Bucs having a post-game kegger.
Cory Hart doubled to start the Brewers off, and an out later, Lucroy walked. J-Mac hung an 0-2 curve to Gallardo; he rolled it into center to bring home Hart. Weeks walked on a borderline 3-2 call to load the bases.
Hurdle rolled the dice and came up seven when he left McDonald on the mound; he struck out Gomez. But he crapped out with two away; Braun spanked a high heater into center to bring home a pair. J-Mac stayed on the hill to face Fielder; he fell behind him 3-0 before coming all the way back to get him on a foul tip. That's four innings and 88 pitches for McDonald.
Gallardo, with 82 pitches after four, faced the top of the order in the fifth. He got McCutch swinging on a high heater. Tabata took a tight fastball and turned on it, doubling into left. Jones struck out and Walker grounded out; opportunity keeps knocking, but the Bucs won't let it in.
After being staggered for four rounds, Hurdle finally relented and brought in Jose Ascanio. McDonald went four innings, giving up five runs on seven hits with three walks and seven K's.
After feeding McGehee soft stuff, he caught him looking at his first fastball. Then Hart went down on a diet of curves. Yuniesky Betancourt put his two-strike pitch in play, a routine bouncer to short. Nice start; twelve pitches, ten strikes.
After a Pedro fly out to left, Overbay collected his second knock of the night, a single to right. The euphoria didn't last long; Snyder bounced the second pitch into an around-the-horn DP.
The Ascanio era was short-lived; Dan Moskos came on in the sixth. Lucroy took one to the wall in center, but McCutch was there. He finally retired Gallardo on a pop into short left that Cedeno corralled. Weeks walked on five pitches, and Gomez poked a fastball up in the zone into right on a hit-and-run to put runners at the corners. Braun pounded one to short for the force out, and Moskos had a goose egg in the sixth.
After six innings and 104 pitches, Roenicke had mercy on Gallardo and brought on Marco Estrada. He fed Cedeno curves and got him swinging; he fed pinch hitter Steve Pearce high heat and got a pop up. McCutch got the royal treatment; a mix of curves and heat, but the results were the same, a bounce out to short.
Chris Resop got on the bike in the seventh. CR got Fielder to ground out, and almost did the same to McGehee, except Pedro booted the bouncer (it was later ruled a hit). He snapped a nice knee-high curve to Hart, who banged it to third for a force. Betancourt grounded out. Resop may be regaining his mojo; he threw fourteen pitches, and eleven were strikes, mixing his heater and curve.
Tabata started the eighth by ripping a ball to center, but it was snagged by Gomez short of the track. Jones sat down, looking at strike three, and Walker followed him to the bench, going down swinging.
Resop stayed on, and got Lucroy on a bouncer up the middle nicely played by Walker. Craig Counsell drew a four pitch walk to turn the order over. Weeks lined a single into left to put runners at first and third. No problem; CR got the second out by blowing three fastballs past Gomez, and put down Braun on a 96 MPH heater.
John Axford took the ball for the Brew Crew. Pedro looked at a pair of pitches right down the heart of the plate and then K'ed swinging. Overbay bounced to short, and Xavier Paul came off the bench and went down swinging on three pitches.
There's no mystery or curse involve with losing tonight; the Pirates played a bad ball game. The starting pitching was bad, the fielding wasn't much better, and the hitting was again below MLB standards.
The Brew Crew bullpen is their Achilles Heel, but in three innings, they pitched perfect ball and struck out five. Starter Gallardo worked the ball away to the Buc hitters all game, and was more often than not up in the zone. But the Pirates took virtually every first strike, giving up a swing, and tried to pull everything instead of driving it the other way.
It wasn't so much a case of strong pitching, even though Pittsburgh had just five hits, but a poor approach at the dish. The plate discipline just isn't there. And that's been a season-long problem, not a Miller Park hex.
Jeff Karstens takes on Chris Naverson tomorrow afternoon.
-- How bad have the Pirates played at Miller Park? During their current 2-29 streak, the bullpen is 0-for-8 in save conversions. And tonight marked their seventh straight loss at Milwaukee.