MILWAUKEE -- Only against the Milwaukee Brewers could the Pirates hit four home runs and still lose.
A poor outing from starter James McDonald and a leaky bullpen wasted a good night at the plate as the Pirates lost against the Brewers, 12-8, Tuesday night at Miller Park.
Yuniesky Betancourt hit the go-ahead home run off Pirates reliever Bryan Morris in the seventh inning, and the Brewers (14-11) added three more runs against Tony Watson in the eighth. It was the sixth consecutive loss for the Pirates (15-12) at Miller Park and the 46th in their past 53 games here.
McDonald struggled in the loss, allowing a season-high seven earned runs on eight hits in five innings. His velocity was up, but his command was erratic as he walked five batters, one intentionally, and hit another.
"Early, my command was off," McDonald said. "Some walks got me in trouble."
It was McDonald's second consecutive outing at Miller Park in which he allowed seven earned runs. His career ERA at the hitter's ballpark is now 7.79 in 10 appearances.
He avoided the loss in part because the Pirates' offense managed to climb back from a four-run deficit in the middle of the game. It was the first time since June 14, 2008, the Pirates hit at least four home runs in a loss.
"We fought," Andrew McCutchen said. "They had a four-run lead at one point, and we came back. We had the lead, had the opportunity to win the game."
But the bullpen, among the best in the league through the first month of the season, allowed five earned runs -- perhaps a result of its heavy workload early in the season.
"We have red-lined our bullpen," manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates took the lead in the sixth with some help from first base umpire Tim Welke.
With the Brewers leading, 7-5, and runners on first and second with one out, pinch hitter Jose Tabata hit a sharp grounder at second baseman Rickie Weeks -- what appeared to be a double-play ball. Weeks stepped on second and threw to first ahead of Tabata. But Welke ruled Tabata safe, extending the inning.
The Pirates made the Brewers pay for the extra out. Starling Marte hit a three-run home run, initially ruled a double but overturned by replay, as the Pirates grabbed an 8-7 lead.
But it was fleeting.
Jean Segura homered off the first pitch in the bottom half of the inning, taking Vin Mazzaro deep to tie the score.
Russell Martin and McCutchen hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth to help chip away at the Brewers' lead. Martin powered a 91 mph fastball into the batter's eye in straight-away center field, his sixth home run of the season and fourth in the past four games.
McCutchen's solo home run was part of a 4-for-5, two-RBI night for the slumping star, who raised his batting average from .217 to .247 in one game. The back-to-back home runs were the first for the Pirates since Garrett Jones and Neil Walker did it July 2, 2012, against the Houston Astros.
They helped chase Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada from the game early. Estrada allowed five earned runs on seven hits in five innings.
McDonald unraveled in the fourth as the Brewers took what appeared to be a commanding lead.
After hitting Segura with a curveball that never really curved, McDonald allowed four consecutive hits -- including an RBI double to Jonathan Lucroy and a two-run single to Weeks -- as Milwaukee climbed ahead, 7-3.
"We made way too many mistakes off the mound, from start to finish," Hurdle said.
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino. First Published May 1, 2013 4:00 AM