Pittsburgh Pirates lose to Brewers 4-1 to open second half


1. 4. 4. 76. Final

The second half of the season got off to a rough start for the Pittsburgh Pirates as they dropped the first game of a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers by a score of 4-1 on Friday night. Charlie Morton was not very sharp and the offense stayed quiet against Mike Fiers and the Milwaukee bullpen. The Brewers took advantage of a sloppy seventh inning by the Pirates and did not allow Pittsburgh to string together many hits late in the game.

The Brewers took the lead in the first inning when Gerardo Parra hit the first pitch he saw to left field for a double. He moved to third on Jonathan Lucroy‘s bunt and scored on Ryan Braun‘s groundout. Neil Walker may have had a play at home on Braun’s hit but elected to take the safe out at first. Parra would give the Brewers a second run in the fifth inning with a double that scored Scooter Gennett.

Fiers kept the Pirates off the board until the seventh inning when Jung Ho Kang hit a solo home run, his fifth of the season and first in a month, to pull the Pirates within one run. But before that Fiers puzzled the Pittsburgh hitters. He struck out seven over seven innings and the Pirates did not collect a hit until the fourth inning, so Kang’s home run was the only real mistake he made last night.

The bottom of the seventh turned out to be the pivotal inning of the game. With the first two runners reaching base Parra hit a hard ground ball to Pedro Alvarez, who let it go through his legs, which gave the Brewers another run. Jared Hughes came in to relieve Morton and was able to get Lucroy to hit into a double play, but another run came in, giving the Brewers a three-run lead. After the double play Hughes missed the plate badly, walking Braun, hitting Adam Lind, and then walking Carlos Gomez. He was able to end the inning with a ground out and stopped the Brewers from really putting the game away.

Arquimedes Caminero was brought in for the eighth inning and continued the theme of the evening by making it more interesting than it needed to be. He gave up a single to Jean Segura, who promptly stole second base. He then walked Gennett but was able to strike out pinch hitter Khris Davis and then Parra. Caminero then hit Lucroy to load the bases and make sure all Pirates’ pitchers hit at least one batter (the Brewers hit Marte and Kang, bringing the grand total for of hit batters in the game to five). It will be interesting to see if this continues tonight. He finally got Braun to ground out, escaping the inning without giving up another run.

The Pirates were able to get a runner on in the ninth but could not move him up from first base against the always tough Francisco Rodriguez. The loss puts the Pirates at 53-36 and with a win by the St. Louis Cardinals, they now sit 3.5 games back of first place in the NL Central.

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What Stood Out

Alvarez committed his 15th error of the season last night, by far the most in the major leagues for any first baseman. Last night’s error was especially bad since it was a fairly routine play for a first baseman. With his playing days at third base over and the continual struggles at first base, the Pirates are running out of options for Alvarez. He seems destined to be a designated hitter, but at this point the Pirates would be selling him at his lowest value. First base should be a top priority for management as the trade deadline approaches.

Morton was also not in his best form last night. He walked three over his six innings of work and also gave up five hits and hit a batter. He was not efficient with his pitches, throwing 90, only 54 of which were for strikes, before he was removed from the game in the seventh. He and Jeff Locke are the two starting pitchers who could potentially be replaced if Neil Huntington decides to upgrade the rotation.

What’s Next

The series continues tonight when Francisco Liriano and Jimmy Nelson face off at 7:10 PM. Liriano will look to extend his quality start streak to five in a row and even his record against the Brewers this season. Nelson kept the Pirates from scoring during his six innings of work on June 8th, so they will be looking to get to him early as he has trouble making it past the fifth inning. In his last six starts he has only made it through six innings two times.

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