The Pirates' offense came to life Tuesday night, but it spent most of its energy playing catch-up.
The Pirates clawed back from a five-run deficit but couldn't hold off the Milwaukee Brewers in a 7-6 loss at PNC Park.
Brewers outfielder Caleb Gindl lifted a pinch-hit, sacrifice fly to right field in the eighth inning off reliever Bryan Morris, scoring the go-ahead run in unceremonious fashion for a game that featured a lot of firepower.
Pedro Alvarez hit his National League-leading 32nd home run this season; Neil Walker crushed a three-run home that nearly reached the Allegheny River, and the Pirates clubbed the Brewers for 15 hits.
"We'd climb our way back to tie it, and they would come back in the next inning to take the lead," shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "It was just one of those games where we could never stop the bleeding."
After erasing a five run deficit by the sixth inning, the Pirates gave up runs in the seventh and eighth to allow the Brewers to escape with a win.
With the loss, the Pirates (76-55) now trail the St. Louis Cardinals, who won Tuesday, by 1 1/2 games for first place in the National League Central Division.
The Pirates' offense looked lethargic for the first four innings before scoring six runs over the next three to make the game competitive. It was a welcomed outburst for a team that had scored six runs and tallied 17 hits combined over their previous three games.
They threatened in the ninth, when Andrew McCutchen and Alvarez reached base with one out before Russell Martin flied out and Gaby Sanchez grounded out to end the game.
"We kept fighting," Mercer said. "We were in it all the way until the last pitch. Going down, 5-0, that's pretty impressive."
But most of their scoring merely took starting pitcher Jeff Locke off the hook. He allowed five earned runs on eight hits in 4 2???3 innings.
"There were some good sequences, but the overall consistency is probably short of what we've seen in the past," manager Clint Hurdle said.
His good start turned into a bad outing by only a matter of inches.
The Brewers scored three runs in the fifth to take a 5-0 lead, although Locke nearly escaped the jam -- twice.
With two outs and runners on first and second in the fifth, Jonathan Lucroy hit a line-drive single to left. Jose Tabata fielded the ball and fired home, but Martin whiffed on an attempted tag on Scooter Gennett, missing the sliding runner by less than a foot as the Brewers extended their lead to 3-0.
Aramis Ramirez followed with two-run double that glanced off the tip of Tabata's glove in left and put the Brewers (58-73) ahead, 5-0.
Had the Pirates turned either of those plays into outs, Locke moves to the sixth with a chance to secure a quality start. And had the injured Starling Marte -- who has a hellfire missile for an arm and the fastest legs on the team -- been active, there's a good chance the Pirates make either of those outs.
But fortuitous bounces rarely go your way when things aren't going well. And things haven't been going well for Locke, an All-Star this year, who has a 6.18 ERA in the second half of the season. He posted a 2.15 ERA in the first half.
"There's no way to slice it anyway than what I'm doing right now," Locke said. "I've just got to pitch better."
Ramirez drove in four runs Tuesday and continues to torture the Pirates after they traded him away in 2003 for what amounted to a salary dump. Ramirez now has 103 career RBIs against his former team. He gave the Brewers a brief one-run lead in the seventh with an RBI single.
Alvarez went 4 for 4 with a walk and tied the score in the seventh with a home run that tattooed the right-field foul pole to make it 6-6.
Brewers starter Kyle Lohse allowed five earned runs on 13 hits, a career high.
The Pirates scored four runs in the fifth to start their comeback, three of which came after Norichika Aoki allowed a fly ball to bounce off his glove with two outs in the inning as Felix Pie scampered to second for a double. Three batters later, Walker homered to pull the Pirates within one run.
They tied the score in the sixth when Pie singled down the first-base line, scoring Andrew Lambo from second.
Michael Sanserino: email@example.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published August 28, 2013 2:45 AM