The Pittsburgh Pirates needed a good start from A.J. Burnett. They got it. What happened in the bottom of the ninth was a rarity, one that felt like it was destined to happen against the Milwaukee Brewers when first baseman Corey Hart led off the ninth inning with his 26th homer of the year.
The walk-off hero crushed an 0-1 slider that Joel Hanrahan left in the heart of the plate. It happpened so quickly, so suddenly that the table of friends I was watching the game with missed it. I stood with my head down before anyone noticed.
Time after time the Bucs missed opportunities and fourteen whiffs were once again the culprit. The Pirates have now dropped nine of their past 12 games.
If you were able to see the post game, Hanrahan’s frustration was evident. Someone asked if he was frustrated, and the Pirates closer said,
“….no I’m happy….the guys battled their butts off and I come in and throw two pitches and the game is over, it was a poorly executed pitch.” Joel Hanrahan
It’s hard to take good things from such a bad stretch of baseball, but A.J. Burnett did have a no-hitter in the sixth inning. Pedro Alvarez put him on top with a run when he crushed his 27th bomb of the season. Burnett piled up the strikeouts and it wasn’t until Rickie Weeks had a bloop two-out single that the no-no was gone. But Burnett whiffed Ryan Braun to get out of the inning.
The Brewers tied the game in the third although they didn’t get a hit off Burnett. Carlos Gomez walked, stole second and third base. Gomez scored on a wild pitch when it looked like the Brewers might have had a squeeze play in order. (How awful is Burnett at holding runners on base, and how bad is Rod Barajas at throwing out runners?)
Where Burnett struggled was he allowed four walks, but he went 6.2 innings giving up two runs and just two hits. The Pirates strikeouts were on full display against the facial artistry of Marco Estrada who punched out ten Bucs. Estrada gave up one run and four hits.
The Buccos left the bases drunk in the sixth, when Estrada got Pedro Alvarez looking on a borderline pitch—Pedro had seen eleven pitches. In the seventh, the Brew Crew grabbed the lead on an RBI double by Gomez.
But Pittsburgh came right back off the Beer Makers Jim Henderson in the eighth. Brock Holt, making his Major League debut, walked and was sacrificed to second base. Andrew McCutchen had his bat shattered, but the ball dropped in for a single to right and Holt raced around to tie the game at two.
It looked like the Bucs were going to finally take care of business in the ninth inning, but they allowed John Axford to wiggle off the hook. The battling Bucs loaded up the bases, but once again were victim of the strikeout this time courtesy of Alex Presley.
A few moments later, Bernie Brewer was flying down the yellow slide as Bob Uecker went wild.