The Pirates' Neil Walker is congratulated by teammate Andrew McCutchen after Walker's home run during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers Tuesday night.
Morry Gash/Associated Press
Brewers starting pitcher Marco Estrada throws during the first inning against the Pirates Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
By Bill Brink / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Brewers did their damage slowly. A bloop single here, a couple infield singles there, a sacrifice fly, two late runs to pad the lead. That worked fine when their starter, Marco Estrada, continued his strong performance against the Pirates.
In a 5-2 loss against the Brewers Tuesday night at Miller Park, the Pirates scored one run against Estrada and struggled to convert scoring opportunities.
After an inauspicious start, including a homer by Neil Walker, the second batter in the game, and two hits in the second inning, Estrada (3-1) pitched well. He limited the Pirates to six hits in six innings and struck out eight. The Pirates went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.
"We had five innings where we had runners in scoring position and weren't able to make anything out of it," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Pirates starter Gerrit Cole (3-3) finished 52/3 innings, allowing three runs, seven hits and three walks. His command eluded him at times while throwing 64 of his 105 pitches for strikes.
Cole was not immediately available for comment after the game.
Estrada improved to 6-0 with a 1.97 ERA in 682/3 career innings against the Pirates.
"There were no surprises as far as how he attacked," Hurdle said. "He hides his fastball. Close to 50 percent of the offensive counts we were in, he threw soft."
Estrada had allowed two home runs in each of his previous three outings and at least one in his past four. That trend continued Tuesday night. In the first inning, Walker worked a 3-0 count. After seeing a strike, he drove a ball over the wall in left-center field to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Walker's eighth homer moved him halfway to his career high of 16 in a season, set last year.
The Pirates didn't score again until the eighth, when Pedro Alvarez reached first on a fielder's choice, took second on Jose Tabata's third hit of the night and scored on Gaby Sanchez's pinch-hit double. That was the Pirates' first hit with a runner in scoring position all night, and it cut the Brewers' lead to 5-2.
Logan Schafer's leadoff single in the third started what would become an arduous inning for Cole. Estrada bunted Schafer to second. Cole hit Carlos Gomez, the center fielder he took issue with at the beginning of the April 20 brawl between the two teams, but the fact that he did so with an 86 mph changeup that put two men on for the meat of the order meant it was unintentional.
Schafer and Gomez moved into scoring position on a double steal, and Cole walked Ryan Braun to load the bases. Jonathan Lucroy hit a low fly ball to shallow right. Josh Harrison, a utility player with more experience in the infield than outfield but who has recently been starting in right, got a bad break on the ball and it fell for a two-run single.
Gomez left the game after the fifth inning because of tightness in his lower back.
The Brewers added on in the sixth. Jean Segura hit a one-out double, reached third on Schafer's groundout and scored on Rickie Weeks' pinch-hit infield single.
"He threw everything he had at them," Hurdle said of Cole
"Probably had to make more pitches than he would like to have made to throw 105 and not be able to get out of the sixth."
Reliever Jared Hughes allowed two runs on three hits, one of them a sharp grounder that ricocheted off his leg into shallow right, in the seventh.
Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.
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