The Milwaukee Brewers scored their lone run in the seventh inning with the help of an overzealous Pirates fan Sunday afternoon.
Two ejections and 10 stranded runners later, the Pirates lost the weekend’s rubber match, 1-0, spoiling former All-Star Jeff Locke’s return to the mound.
“It’s a tough game. There were challenges all over the place. A lot of calls, a lot of situations,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Not many worked to our advantage. We weren’t able to plate a run. … Just a lot went on. You shake your head. You’ve got to get rid of it and move on.”
Locke dueled with Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo and had allowed just two singles and a walk when Jonathan Lucroy hit a drive down the left-field line to lead off the seventh.
The ball dropped just fair, then caromed toward the stands as left fielder Starling Marte tracked it down.
But Marte was beaten by a fan who reached over the railing to scoop up the ball with two hands. Lucroy was awarded second on a ground-rule double, citing fan interference, then moved to third on a sacrifice fly.
He scored on a groundout to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead. The Pirates were out of the inning one batter later.
“If he didn’t do that, it’s a base hit. Lucroy wouldn’t go to second base,” Marte said. “He’s a slow guy and I don’t think it’s a double.”
The Pirates stranded two in the ninth, left the bases loaded in the seventh and stranded Andrew McCutchen on third in the eighth as Russell Martin and then Hurdle were ejected for arguing with home plate umpire Ed Hickox.
Martin slammed his bat, then helmet after a called third strike on a pitch that appeared well below the strike zone with a full count.
“I had the ball not being a strike,” Martin said. “I had it coming around the plate. In that situation it’s a 1-0 game, a guy on third base, [Pedro Alvarez] is on deck. I just felt like it was a tough spot for him to make that call. Nobody’s perfect. … He made the best call he thought at that moment.”
Locke appeared back to his old form in the start, which was the most promising development of the day.
He retired the Brewers in order the first three innings, then allowed a couple of two-out singles in the fourth before a fly ball to center ended the inning.
He walked Rickie Weeks in the fifth, but caught him stealing and struck out Mark Reynolds to end the inning.
He threw just 75 pitches and said his connection with Martin and keeping his confidence in the minors this year was the key.
“I was on the same page with Russ and I think that always helps. We kind of picked up where we left off before,” Locke said. “Wasn’t a lot of dialogue between him and I even before the game … moved the ball around a little bit and that’s what can happen when two people are on the same page.
“I think it’s confidence. You’ve always got to find a way to not let that teeter.”
Locke went seven innings, gave up three hits, one run and one walk, and struck out five.
He was recalled from Class AAA Indianapolis when the team put ace Gerrit Cole on the 15-day disabled list.
“Outstanding. Fastball command was spot on. The changeup played so very, very well,” Hurdle said. “That’s the young man we saw pitching the first half of the season last year. Didn’t mess around out there. He gave us everything we could’ve asked to give us and more.”
Gallardo held the Pirates to four hits through seven innings, walked one and struck out eight.
The Pirates had a prime opportunity to take command in the bottom of the seventh when they loaded the bases with one out.
Gallardo’s pitch count soared to 121 eventually, but Jose Tabata, pinch-hitting for Locke, struck out and Josh Harrison popped up to first base.
The Pirates had a chance to score in the first when Neil Walker was thrown out at home.
Walker was hit by a pitch with one out and moved to third on a single by McCutchen.
Gaby Sanchez hit a long fly ball to right field for an attempted sacrifice fly, but Walker was tagged out at the plate. An umpire review confirmed the call on the field.
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter: @JennMenendez.
First Published June 8, 2014 4:53 PM