Unfortunately, J-Mick ran across his first inning blues again. He walked Norichika Aoki, saw Weeks get aboard on a Pedro boot on a DP ball, and then gave up a bomb to the overdue Ryan Braun. Braun just didn't just drill it; he crushed it 458' to left off a first pitch heater. McDonald got the next three guys swinging, but a quick start went by the boards, and the Brew Crew were up 3-1.
The Fort cut the lead to a run in the second when he pounded his 12th homer to left on an 0-2 curve. The Brewers got it back quickly enough when Jeff Bianchi went deep with one away, taking an elevated fastball downtown. After another out, Aoki turned over on a pitch away and singled to right. Weeks got a 2-0 heater and he went yard off the scoreboard for the third homer in eleven batters for Milwaukee. All three have been bombs; Week's traveled 460'. Braun whiffed, so J-Mick has the odd line of six runs and six K's in two frames.
JT opened the third with a single. After a Cutch fly out, Jones fell behind 1-2, but watched the next three deliveries sail wide to draw a free pass. Gaby worked the count full before flying out to center; JT tagged to third. Pedro walked on five pitches and the bags were full of Buccos. The Fort banged the first pitch to left, and a pair of Pirates plated. It might have been a bigger inning, but J-Hay K'ed swinging at ball four. Still, it's interesting again at 6-4.
With an out in the Brewer half, Hart doubled to center, almost sending Bernie Brewer down the yellow slide again. Martin Maldonado flew out to JT. Carlos Gomez did send Bernie down the slide by lining a fastball over the left field fence; the Brewers have put one ball in play against J-Mick that was an out and have stranded zero runners. Finally, Chris Leroux came out to finish the frame; McDonald gave up six hits and four went yard in 2-2/3 innings. All eight runs against him scored behind homers.
After an out in the fourth, Brock singled to center, his first MLB hit. JT followed with another knock, putting Bucs at first and second. It was a short-lived rally. Cutch rolled over on the first pitch on the outside black and bounced it to short for a 6-4-3 DP.
Could it get worse? Sure - Gallardo homered to left to open the Brewer fourth. He's done it before; it's his tenth MLB long fly. Aoki followed with a five pitch walk, and stole second two pitches later. Weeks bonked an infield single; the Brewers can do no wrong today. Leroux did get Braun swinging for the first out. With Aramis Ramirez at the dish, Weeks swiped second.
Now that they were set up, A-Ram punched a single to center to score two more. It was a grounder not quite up the middle; if the Bucs were at DP position, it was a turn-two ball. That's a downside of the stolen base equation that the stat heads haven't quite factored in. Ahead of Hart 1-2, Leroux plunked him with a pitch. Maldonado did bounce into a DP, but it was 11-4 Milwaukee after four.
Jones opened the fifth with a knock to right. Gaby knocked an 0-1 heater yard, and it was 11-6. After a Pedro whiff, The Fort worked a full count walk. After a Harrison fly out, Travis Snider bopped a pinch single to put Bucs at second and third. Holt knocked a 3-2 pitch up the middle, and with everyone moving on the 3-2 count, The Fort scored and Snider went to third. Brock can add his first big league RBI to the resume. He was the last batter for Gallardo no matter what; he was at 118 pitches, and Kameron Loe took the hill. JT bounced out, and the score was 11-7 going into the bottom of the fifth. And we're already past the two hour mark; glad it's a game day.
Justin Wilson took the bump for the Buccos. After an out, Bianchi singled to right and Loe bunted him to second. Aoki bounced out and the Brew Crew demolition squad was held to a zero for the first time today. Wilson's velocity was down in the low nineties, and he may be sacrificing some speed for accuracy as walks have been his Achille's Heel; he was touching 97 in bullpen stints at Indy.
Cutch opened the sixth by lining out to Bianchi at short. GI got a 2-0 pitch he liked; he took it the opposite way for a solo shot, number 23 on the year. Loe got a pair of grounders to close the frame, but Pittsburgh had clawed its way back into the same zip code, down 11-8.
Weeks opened the Brewer half with a knock to center; it took him three pitches to motor to second. Braun rolled a ball to left to put Brewers on the corners. A-Ram knocked the first pitch into right to score Weeks, with Braun holding at second.That brought on Chris Resop. Hart hit into a force to leave runners on the corners with an out. Maldonado fanned, leaving him as the only Brewer starter without a hit so far. Gomez popped out as Resop slapped a band aid on Wilson's inning.
Francisco Rodriguez took his turn in the seventh. He tossed a clean frame, with J-Hay's drive to the track in center hauled in by Gomez his only ooops moment. Resop tossed a clean seventh and schooled the Indy guys that preceded him; stay out of the middle and throw strikes. It took him 21 pitches to get six outs.
Jose Veras answered the bell for the eighth. Holt and Alex Presley both looked at third strikes, frozen by curves, while Cutch bounced out to second, jammed on an inside black 3-2 heater. Tony Watson was next in line for Pittsburgh, and he promptly lost Weeks on five pitches. After a Braun fly out, the Bucs finally nabbed a Brewer runner when Watson picked off Weeks as he broke for second. He must of been pumped up; he hit A-Ram with a two strike count three pitches later. Hart popped out to Brock, who made a nice running grab, and it was on to the ninth.
Manny Parra was called on to finish; he gave up an opening infield knock to GI and then walked Gaby on five pitches. Quick hook; John Axford came on in what was suddenly by rule a save situation. He coaxed a fly out the opposite way from Pedro. McKenry whiffed after a nine pitch at-bat. Harrison went down swinging at a pitch only a Rawlings mama could love, and that was it. The Bucs once again took 2-of-3 from the Cards and then followed by getting swept by a hot, but sub-.500 club.
As for J-Mick's woes, it's all a matter of getting ahead in the count, and that means tossing the hook for a strike. When he gets behind, McDonald goes all heat, and everyone is sitting on it. Until his curve becomes a strike pitch again, he's in trouble; his heater isn't good enough generally to carry him.
It's pretty safe to say the next stretch should tell the Pirate tale; September is set up pretty kindly for them. They have six at home against the Astros and Cubs, visit the Reds for three, then have a fourteen game run against the Cubs, Brewers (at home), Astros and Mets. That's a twenty game stretch where they should be able to put up some Ws and will determine if they're contenders and not pretenders.
Jeff Locke takes the mound against Houston tomorrow; his opponent is TBD.
- 9 of the 17 homers that James McDonald has allowed this season have been hit in the first inning. A dozen have come since the All-Star break, and he's gone 3-4 with 7.14 ERA and 1.70 WHIP since then.
- By winning 11 of 13 games in a stretch against the Pirates and Cubs, the Brewers moved from 12-1/2 games to within 6-1/2 games of the second NL wild card. Pittsburgh is 1-1/2 games away from the final ticket to the playoffs.