The Pirates' offensive woes stretched to a second consecutive game as they were beaten by the Brewers, 3-1, tonight at PNC Park.
With the loss, the Pirates (74-74) have dropped to .500 for the first time since June 2. At one point, they were as many as 16 games over .500 in pursuit of their first winning season since 1992.
Milwaukee (76-72) outhit the Pirates, 11-6, to claim its sixth consecutive victory against its National League Central Division foe.
Andrew McCutchen hit a solo home run to lead off the ninth inning, snapping a 23-inning scoreless streak for the Pirates that started in the third inning of their victory against the Chicago Cubs on Monday. Adding insult to insult, while the Pirates went scoreless for 23 consecutive innings, Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada twice put the ball in play to bring home Brewer runs Wednesday.
Rookie pitcher Kyle McPherson, making his first career start, took the loss after allowing two earned runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. He struck out two batters and walked another.
McPherson left the game with a runner on first having thrown only 71 pitches, his endurance lacking having thrown out of the bullpen for the past three weeks.
His initial welcome to the rotation did not go so well.
After throwing a ball to leadoff batter Norichika Aoki, McPherson served him a 90-mph fastball in the middle of the strike zone. Aoki sent it sailing over the right field wall for his ninth home run of the season and his first career leadoff home run as the Brewers claimed a 1-0 lead.
His night improved from there, but McPherson never pitched a completely clean inning. He did, however, get some help from his defense, which turned a double play in four of the five innings in which he appeared.
Milwaukee got to McPherson again in the fifth inning. Carlos Segura hit a double off the wall in centerfield to lead off the inning and advanced to third when McPherson balked. McPherson's counterpart, Estrada, singled down the right-field line to score Segura and extend the Brewers' lead, 2-0.
The Brewers eventually loaded the bases with one out in the inning when the Pirates turned a nifty double play. Aramis Ramirez hit a weak grounder to reliever Chris Resop, who turned a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.
Estrada was sharp on the mound, allowing three hits over seven scoreless innings. He struck out four batters, walked another and improved his career record against the Pirates to 3-0.
He retired 10 consecutive batters between the fourth and seventh innings while Milwaukee extended its lead.
Jeff Karstens made his bullpen debut, allowing one earned run on three hits in three innings, striking out two. It was his 16th appearance of the season, but his first in relief.
The Brewers added their insurance run off Karstens in the seventh inning. Segura led off the inning with a triple, lacing a line drive that snuck under Andrew McCutchen's glove in centerfield. Estrada followed with a sharp grounder that second baseman Brock Holt was unable to corral. Estrada reached on an error, and Segura scored to make it 3-0.
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino. First Published September 20, 2012 2:15 AM