MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers battered Pirates starter James McDonald, smacking four home runs against him in a 12-8 Pirate loss this afternoon.
It was the ugliest outing of the year for McDonald as the Pirates (70-63) were swept by the Brewers (65-68) in a three-game series. The Pirates have lost nine of their past 12 games, including a pair of road sweeps.
McDonald lasted only 2 2/3 innings, allowing eight runs, seven earned, on six hits, the shortest outing of his career as a starting pitcher. It was the fifth multi-home run game McDonald has allowed this season, four of which have come in the second half.
By comparison, he allowed two home runs total over the first two months of the season.
He took the brunt of the Brewers' bats, but he wasn't the only one to struggle on the mound. Reliever Chris Leroux allowed a solo homer to Yovani Gallardo -- the Brewers' starting pitcher -- and gave up three earned runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings innings to follow up McDonald's short outing.
Perhaps adding to the frustration of a game that got out of hand, the Pirates' offense performed well after two sub-par games. They had 13 hits and three home runs and chased Gallardo from the game in the fifth inning after saddling him with seven earned runs on 11 hits.
But every time the offense made the deficit manageable, the pitching staff let the Brewers get some distance. The Brewers weren't held scoreless in an inning until the fifth, and the Pirates didn't record a 1-2-3 inning until the seventh.
Michael McKenry finished the game 2 for 4 with a home run, two runs, three RBIs and a walk. Garrett Jones also hit a home run, his 23rd of the season.
The St. Louis Cardinals also lost this afternoon, so the Pirates remain 1 1/2 games back in the race for the second and final National League wild-card playoff spot.
A four-pitch walk to the first batter he faced, Norichika Aoki, was the first inkling it could be a bad day for McDonald on the mound. Two batters later, Ryan Braun let him know how bad it would get.
Braun crushed a mammoth, 458-foot home run to left field, his 37th of the season, to give the Brewers a 3-1 lead.
McDonald gave up two home runs in the second inning, and another in the third before his day was finished after 63 pitches.
Gaby Sanchez gave the Pirates a first-inning lead with his first hit with a runner in scoring position since being traded to the Pirates at the deadline.
With Andrew McCutchen on second, Sanchez slapped a soft line drive to right field, dropping for a single and scoring McCutchen as the Pirates climbed ahead 1-0. McCutchen, Jones and Sanchez all reached base with two outs.
Sanchez entered the at-bat 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position since the trade.
Sanchez also homered later in the game.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino. First Published September 2, 2012 10:00 PM