Ryan Braun’s ninth-inning home run scuttled a well-managed game from Pirates manager Clint Hurdle.
Hurdle’s moves paid off in the middle innings, but Braun hit his second home run of the game, a two-run shot off Jason Grilli, to send the Pirates to an 8-7 loss against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park Saturday night.
Jean Segura singled before Braun hit a first-pitch fastball out to center field. The Pirates have now lost four out of five games and seven of their past nine.
Hurdle pinch-hit for Wandy Rodriguez, who was not having the best of nights, with Travis Snider in a five-run fourth inning in which the Pirates sent nine men to the plate. Snider singled to drive in two runs.
Patience helped the Pirates take advantage of Garza and the Brewers in the fourth inning. Andrew McCutchen worked a leadoff walk and Pedro Alvarez reached on an error when Rickie Weeks booted a grounder. Jose Tabata hit a run-scoring single down the third-base line, just past Aramis Ramirez, and Davis walked to load the bases.
Neil Walker hit a hard liner, but right at Braun in right field. Clint Barmes singled up the middle to score two runs and tie the game at 4-4.
Hurdle pinch-hit Snider with two men on base. Snider singled to score two runs and give the Pirates a 6-4 lead.
With Braun, Ramirez and Jonathan Lucroy due up in the fifth, Hurdle went with Morris, whose fastball velocity and slider give him enough weaponry to someday pitch the late innings. Braun reached on a dribbler that stayed fair, and scored on a wild pitch and two groundouts, but Morris retired the next three batters.
Russell Martin hit a two-out infield single that deflected off Brewers pitcher Rob Wooten in the sixth inning. McCutchen drove Martin around to score with a double.
That run became important in the top of the seventh, when Braun laced a line-drive homer into the bullpen to cut the Pirates’ lead to 7-6.
Rodriguez finished four innings and allowed four runs on six hits. He has allowed at least four runs in five or fewer innings in each of his past three starts.
“I think more than anything it’s still collateral rust from time away from the mound last year because in the innings that the zeroes have gone up, there haven’t been hard contact, the innings have been efficient, pitch count’s been down,” Hurdle said before the game.
Lucroy doubled and scored on Khris Davis’ single in the second inning.
The Pirates answered in the bottom half when Davis, in his first at-bat since joining the team, doubled to left field. Walker’s single up the middle scored him.
A costly fielding miscue extended the top of the third inning and allowed two runs to score. With two outs and Jean Segura on second, Braun grounded to Alvarez at third. Instead of throwing to first for the final out of the inning, Alvarez attempted to catch Segura in a rundown. Segura eluded Walker’s tag, returned to second base and was ruled safe.
Ramirez hit a run-scoring single and Lucroy drove in a run with a double before Rodriguez got out of the inning and the Brewers led 3-1.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG.