MILWAUKEE -- Things were going OK for Tom Gorzelanny and the Pirates midway through the holiday game against the Milwaukee Brewers yesterday.
True, Gorzelanny and the Pirates trailed, 3-1, entering the bottom of the fifth inning, but the left-hander seemed to be settling in. And it appeared only a matter of time before the Pirates' offense capitalized fully on one of the many opportunities Brewer starter Ben Sheets presented them.
- Game: Pirates vs. Brewers, 7:05 p.m., Miller Park.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (5-5, 4.28) vs. RHP Dave Bush (4-8, 5.06).
- Key matchup: Maholm vs. Bill Hall, the Milwaukee third baseman who has fallen into a platoon situation with Russell Branyan. Hall is 9 for 15 lifetime against Maholm with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs.
- Of note: Maholm has one win on the road this season, but he has pitched superbly in his past three road starts, having allowed five earned runs in 19 2/3 innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, however, Gorzelanny's Fourth of July blew up in his face.
A five-run inning -- which began with Gorzelanny walking .086 "hitting" Sheets -- sealed the deal for Milwaukee, which romped past the Pirates, 9-1, before a sellout crowd of 41,463.
"It was a disaster," catcher Ryan Doumit said of the decisive fifth. "Things kind of fell apart."
"That inning got away from him," manager John Russell observed.
Gorzelanny had showed some promise in his previous start against Tampa Bay last Sunday, having changed his delivery. He allowed the Rays just two runs in six innings, walked two and struck out eight.
During a sideline session before that start, Gorzelanny asked pitching coach Jeff Andrews if he should stop taking his arms over his head before beginning his delivery.
"He asked my opinion," Andrews said. "I thought there was a lot of excess movement that maybe didn't need to be there."
So Gorzelanny compacted his delivery, keeping his hands more in the center of his body and below his face. None of that helped Gorzelanny as he went to a 3-2 count on Sheets in the fifth, then walked him. Gorzelanny reacted angrily, snapping at the return throw from Doumit.
"That was definitely not what I planned on doing," Gorzelanny said of walking Sheets. "Maybe I was a little upset. I tried to bear down after that, but things didn't work out."
One out later, hot-hitting J.J. Hardy drove a 1-1 pitch over the left-center field fence for his sixth home run during a 16-game hitting streak that has produced a .448 average.
Gorzelanny then walked Ryan Braun but picked him off first base. That was the last positive for Gorzelanny this sunny afternoon.
Prince Fielder, in a woeful 2-for-38 slide as he stepped in, dropped a bloop double just inside the left-field line. Corey Hart singled in Fielder. Gorzelanny walked Mike Cameron.
Then came the finisher.
Bill Hall, in a 7-for-51 funk at game time, singled to left, driving in Hart. Left fielder Jason Bay, noticing shortstop Jack Wilson moving to cover third base, made a throw that would have nailed Cameron at third.
"He has the option of throwing to the cutoff man or me," Wilson said. "The throw was there. I could have caught it."
The ball rolled toward the Pirates' dugout. Gorzelanny, backing up the plate, hustled to retrieve the ball, but his throw to the plate was an instant too late to get Cameron, whose run gave Milwaukee an 8-1 bulge.
Hall wound up at third. And, when Gorzelanny walked Jason Kendall, he wound up in the dugout. T.J. Beam relieved and retired Sheets on a pop to second.
Gorzelanny, 1-6 with a whopping 9.24 earned run average in eight road starts, was more than a bit bummed after the game.
"Everything has been progressing," he said, "but this start didn't go as planned. Doing something like this is not something that makes you happy, I'll tell you that."
The Pirates' offense did go as planned -- to a point.
They milked the count on Sheets, forcing him to throw an inordinate number of pitches early in the game. He eventually would leave with two outs in the sixth, having made 120 pitches.
Thing was, the Pirates, who were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position and couldn't finish what they started against the right-hander, who improved to 10-2 with his ERA dropping to 2.77.
They had runners on first and second with one out in the first but didn't score.
They wasted a leadoff walk to Adam LaRoche in the second.
They managed a run in the third on Wilson's leadoff double and a double by Xavier Nady, but they left runners on second and third.
Doug Mientkiewicz had a leadoff double in the fourth and reached third on a sacrifice by Gorzelanny -- the Pirates' starting pitcher batted eighth for the fourth consecutive game -- but was left stranded.
And they placed runners on second and third with one out in the fifth but didn't score.
Paul Meyer can be reached at email@example.com .