MILWAUKEE -- Officially, John Russell wasn't around for the finish of the Pirates game yesterday.
Neither was Adam LaRoche.
The Pirates manager and first baseman watched J.J. Hardy's winning single in the 12th inning on television in the clubhouse, where they had spent the final seven innings of Milwaukee's 4-3 victory that lengthened the Pirates' losing streak at Miller Park to 12 games.
Russell and LaRoche were ejected by plate umpire Bob Davidson after the fifth inning, and their forced departures added a bit of spice to yet another loss for the retooling Pirates.
"Bush league," LaRoche called Davidson's aggressiveness.
"I didn't think it was handled right," Russell said.
The public show of heated anger was uncharacteristic of Russell and LaRoche.
Which offered evidence of how wrong they thought Davidson was -- in LaRoche's case to call him out on strikes to end the top of the fifth and in Russell's case to prolong the debate a half-inning later.
- Game: Chicago Cubs vs. Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Ted Lilly (12-7, 4.25) vs. RHP Jeff Karstens (2-2, 2.25).
- Key matchup: Pirates vs. the Cubs. The Pirates are 4-11 against the National League Central leaders this season and have been outscored, 88-40, in the 11 losses.
- Of note: Lilly has bloomed in August. In four starts this month, he is 2-1 with a 3.04 earned run average.
"Bob continued to agitate the situation," Russell said. "We had Adam calmed down and he came toward our dugout yelling."
The episode began several minutes earlier after the Pirates had nicked Milwaukee starter CC Sabathia for the game's first run in the top of the fifth. LaRoche batted with two outs and runners on first and third.
LaRoche took a 1-2 pitch that seemed to be a strike, but was called a ball.
"Close," LaRoche said.
Sabathia's next pitch was "a foot outside," according to LaRoche, but Davidson called it a strike, ending the inning but starting the argument.
LaRoche had words with Davidson near the plate, then walked away and took his position at first base.
"I let him know it was a bad call and that he should go look at it," LaRoche said.
After Paul Maholm deftly dispatched the Brewers in the bottom of the fifth, LaRoche went to the clubhouse to watch the disputed pitch on a replay. He returned to the dugout and "locked eyes" with Davidson.
More words were exchanged before the Pirates calmed LaRoche. At that point, Davidson ejected LaRoche.
That made Russell mad. He quickly bolted from the dugout and argued animatedly and vociferously with Davidson, who couldn't be reached to comment.
"I just didn't think it was handled right," Russell said. "Adam had stopped talking."
The LaRoche-Davidson-Russell sideshow was an added attraction to what was a fine pitching duel between Sabathia and Maholm.
Both left-handers allowed a ton of hits -- 12 in six innings by Maholm; eight in six innings by Sabathia -- but masterfully worked out of most jams.
Maholm was especially impressive in that regard.
He faced a bases-loaded, no-outs spot in the third inning and wriggled free by striking out Ryan Braun and getting Prince Fielder to tap into a double play on a comebacker to the mound.
In the next inning, the Brewers again loaded the bases, this time with one out. Maholm struck out Sabathia and Rickie Weeks.
Maholm's artistry didn't continue in the sixth, though.
Singles by Mike Cameron, who's 9 for 12 lifetime against Maholm, and Gabe Kapler, who batted for Sabathia, drove in runs to put Milwaukee up, 2-1.
That was Maholm's final inning and extended his streak of pitching at least six innings in a start to 20 consecutive games, the most, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, since Rick Rhoden had a 21-game streak in 1986.
For his part, Sabathia extended his streak of pitching at least six innings in a start to 24 consecutive games.
The Pirates tied the score in the seventh on a pinch-hit triple by Freddy Sanchez and Nyjer Morgan's flare into short center field with the infield playing in.
Cameron, who had a five-hit afternoon, broke the tie with a two-out home run on a 1-2 pitch from Denny Bautista in the eighth. But the Pirates, as has been their wont all season, did not go down easily.
In the ninth against Salomon Torres, Luis Rivas led off with a single and hustled to second on a short wild pitch. Pinch-hitter Nate McLouth, coming off his sick bed, lined a run-scoring single to center to force extra innings.
The Pirates had a great chance to go ahead in the top of the 12th, loading the bases with no outs. Brandon Moss flied out to not-deep-enough center field, but Chris Gomez almost put the Pirates up by at least two runs.
He bounced a ball down the third-base line that seemed fair, but umpire Andy Fletcher called it foul.
"I thought it went right over the bag," Gomez said.
"Mighty close," third-base coach Tony Beasley said.
Gomez then struck out and Rivas tapped to pitcher Guillermo Mota.
The Brewers struck quickly in the bottom of the 12th.
With one out, Rickie Weeks drew a walk from Jason Davis and stole second. Hardy's single on Davis' next pitch brought an end to this dispute.
Paul Meyer can be reached at 412-263-1144. First Published August 25, 2008 4:00 AM