Ross Ohlendorf proved he has regained his health when he started for the Pirates Tuesday night, his first major league start since April. But he apparently has not regained full command of his pitches.
Ohlendorf allowed seven runs, four earned, in five innings in the Pirates' 11-4 loss against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park. The Brewers scored seven of those runs on seven hits in the second inning.
"Obviously, the second inning was really disappointing, but I was happy with how I rebounded after that," Ohlendorf said.
The shoulder injury to Paul Maholm gave Ohlendorf a chance to rejoin the rotation. His fastball reached 93 mph, and he threw 86 pitches. The Brewers got hold of many of the 32 pitches in the second and hit them hard, but he settled down and worked out of trouble his final three innings.
Game: Brewers vs. Pirates, 12:35 p.m., PNC Park.
TV, radio: Root Sports, WPGB-FM 104.7
Pitching: TBA vs. RHP Shaun Marcum (11-3, 3.40 ERA).
Key matchup: Marcum vs. the left-handed batters in the Pirates lineup. Left-handed batters have a .270 average against him this season compared to .185 for right-handed batters.
Hidden stat: Marcum has not lost a decision since June 29.
"I don't think his command was as sharp," as it had been in his rehab starts, manager Clint Hurdle said. "His secondary pitches, there was some inconsistency there."
Ohlendorf (0-1) started his third Pirates game this season, but it was his first since April 8, when he left early because of shoulder pain. He spent more than four months out of action and then in rehabilitation in the minors before starting against the Brewers.
The Pirates lost for the fifth time in their past seven games and fell to 6-15 in August.
Brewers starter Marco Estrada (4-8) earned the win. Ryan Braun went 2 for 3 with two doubles and two runs scored. He also walked twice. Braun's .326 batting average entering the game ranked second in the National League. Former Pirate Nyjer Morgan went 4 for 6 with two runs and two RBIs.
The Brewers hit the ball hard in the first, but Ohlendorf allowed no runs. In the second, soft bloopers helped the Brewers score before they reverted to the hard-hit balls.
Yuniesky Betancourt doubled to lead off the second and took third on Jerry Hairston Jr.'s soft pop to right that fell between Neil Walker and Xavier Paul. Jonathan Lucroy's poke just over Garrett Jones' head scored Betancourt.
"You see balls that weren't barreled up find the grass, but, when [pitches are] elevated, that can happen," Hurdle said.
Estrada bunted to advance the runners, but catcher Ryan Doumit overthrew first, and Hairston scored. Morgan singled to score Lucroy, and Braun's double off the wall scored two more runs, making the score 5-0 and drawing pitching coach Ray Searage out of the dugout to talk to Ohlendorf.
Searage's advice, which included keeping the ball down, helped him settle in, Ohlendorf said.
Casey McGehee hit a two-run home run to left to extend the score to 7-0.
The seven runs came on seven hits, but only four of the runs were earned. Ohlendorf needed only 15 pitches in the third, when he struck out two batters.
The Pirates scored one in the third when Xavier Paul's single drove in Ronny Cedeno.
Morgan and Braun both reached base in the fourth, and Ohlendorf intentionally walked Prince Fielder to load the bases A double play helped him escape that jam without a run.
Josh Harrison hit his first major league home run to left field in the fifth, cutting the lead to 7-2.
Braun walked, stole his second base of the game and scored on Fielder's double to make the Brewers lead 8-2 in the sixth.
The Pirates bullpen allowed the Brewers to extend the lead. Daniel McCutchen allowed one run in two innings, Chris Resop three in two innings.
The Brewers added another run in the eighth, but the Pirates answered in their half of the inning on Neil Walker's RBI single. Garrett Jones' triple scored Walker to cut the score to 9-4. Walker went 2 for 4 with a triple, and Paul went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI.
If he finishes the season in the rotation, Ohlendorf will make six or seven more starts, giving him time to re-adjust to pitching at the major league level.
Hurdle said he needed to work on his fastball command and executing his secondary pitches.
"These guys can hit fastballs," Hurdle said. "You need to have other weapons to back them off and slow them down a little bit."
Ohlendorf said he wants to pitch deeper into games down the stretch.
"I was really excited to get back, but I was disappointed with how I pitched," he said.
Bill Brink: email@example.com . First Published August 24, 2011 4:00 AM