The near-flawless performance of the Pirates' late-inning relievers came to an end Tuesday night.
The Pirates had not lost this season when leading after seven innings of play, but Chris Johnson changed all that.
When the Pirates lost, 10-4, to the Arizona Diamondbacks at PNC Park, it ended a 53-0 run when the Pirates led after seven innings. The bullpen, an uncommon culprit in Pirates losses this season, allowed most of the damage.
The instrument that did the snapping was the bat of Johnson, who hit a three-run home run off Jason Grilli in the eighth inning. He hit another, off Jared Hughes in the ninth, to extend the lead.
"It's just a night you don't want to have as a reliever," said Grilli, who took the loss and allowed four runs on four hits without recording an out. "It doesn't feel good."
Grilli had not allowed a run since July 16. He allowed his previous four runs over an 18-game span beginning June 15. Hughes, who allowed three runs on two hits in the ninth, had allowed three earned runs in his previous 15 appearances.
The Pirates remained 31/2 games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central after the Reds lost Tuesday night.
The Pirates bullpen ranked second in the major leagues with a 2.79 ERA entering the game, and their 30 home runs allowed was tied for eighth.
"That's a good lineup over there," manager Clint Hurdle said. "You don't get the ball where you want to get the ball, they can do some damage with it."
Miguel Montero tied the score in the top of the eighth. Paul Goldschmidt doubled and Justin Upton's single sent Goldschmidt to third. Montero singled through the hole between first and second to score Goldschmidt to make it 4-4 before Johnson, who came over from the Houston Astros before the trade deadline, hit his 12th home run this season.
The Pirates trailed, 3-2, until the seventh, when Starling Marte hit a 3-2 fastball from Takashi Saito into the shrubbery in center to tie the score.
"He's a young man with a really big skill set that just needs to play," Hurdle said. "He comes as advertised."
After Marte's homer, Travis Snider singled and Andrew McCutchen doubled, putting men on second and third with no outs.
Hurdle sent Garrett Jones to pinch-hit for Gaby Sanchez against the right-handed Saito, and Saito intentionally walked him to load the bases.
Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson brought in left-hander Mike Zagurski to face Neil Walker, who hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Snider and give the Pirates a 4-3 lead.
Starter Jeff Karstens allowed only three runs but gave up eight hits in six innings. Karstens, who had pitched five innings in each of his previous two starts, threw more pitches than usual early in the game.
"I expect a lot of myself," Karstens said.
"I expect to go out and, no matter who I'm facing, pitch well."
Those eight hits, including a home run from Stephen Drew, all came in the first four innings, during which he threw 84 pitches. He threw a combined 16 pitches in his next two innings and retired his final seven batters.
The Pirates squeezed two runs off Arizona starter Patrick Corbin, a 23-year-old rookie making his seventh major league start. He allowed two runs in six innings and struck out seven.
Drew led off the third with a homer to give Arizona a 2-1 lead.
"Him and Paul Goldschmidt were just the biggest thorns in my side tonight," Karstens said.
Drew went 3 for 4 and Goldschmidt went 3 for 5 with two doubles.
Once the bullpen took over, so did the Diamondbacks.
First Published August 8, 2012 4:30 AM