Capps, Pirates lose No. 16 to Milwaukee, 7-4
Pirates reliever Matt Capps wipes his forehead after serving up a three run homer to the Brewers Rickie Weeks in the ninth inning tonight at PNC Park.
Andy LaRoche is greeted at home by Ramon Vazquez after hitting a solo home run against the Brewers last night.
Share with others:
The number 17 already holds an ominous connotation for these Pirates, as this could mark their 17th consecutive losing season and a professional sports record.
Add another to the list.
If the Pirates lose to Milwaukee again tonight -- as they did in the most dispiriting way by a 7-4 count last night at PNC Park -- it would mark their 17th consecutive loss to the Brewers, the only such streak in Major League Baseball over the past two decades.
Three teams have had 16 consecutive losses to one opponent since 1990, most recently the Cincinnati Reds against the Arizona Diamondbacks, in 2001-03, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. None has lost 17 in a row in that span.
For the Pirates and particularly Matt Capps, No. 16 might have stung the most: They had leads of 3-1 in the eighth, 4-3 in the ninth, and watched it all obliterated with Rickie Weeks' three-run home run off Capps in the latter.
"Tough loss," manager John Russell said.
"I don't know if this has to do with one team we play or what, but it's hard to take," outfielder Brandon Moss said. "Especially with how our starter pitched."
• Game: Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Ian Snell (1-3, 3.72) vs. RHP Jeff Suppan (1-2, 5.88)
• Key matchup: Snell vs. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee's cleanup man, who is 8 for 17 with a home run and two doubles against him.
• Of note: No National League team has been hit by more pitches than the Brewers, with 15. Ryan Braun and Jason Kendall each has been hit four times.
Paul Maholm, charged with two runs and six hits over 7 1/3 innings, was in line to go 4-0 when he exited with a 3-1 lead. John Grabow gave up two in the eighth but, even then, Jason Jaramillo's RBI double in the bottom half put the Pirates back up, 4-3.
Next came Capps' grisly ninth, as he went for his sixth save in as many chances ...
Jason Kendall and pinch-hitter Craig Counsell opened with singles, and Corey Hart, trying to bunt, ended up walking to load the bases. J.J. Hardy's sacrifice fly brought the tying run, and Weeks' blast deep into the left-field bleachers -- off a full-count fastball, up and over the inner part of the plate -- brought three more.
Capps, not an easy one to rile, was visibly furious that home plate umpire Bob Davidson did not call Weeks out on a 2-2 fastball that Capps apparently felt was belt-high and over the inside corner.
"We should be tied right now," Capps said at his stall. "That's how I feel. I've watched it on video. I've watched it seven different times since I've been in here. We should be tied. You watch it. Tell me where it's at."
He took a deep breath.
"You can handle it when you get beat. You can handle it when the other team's better than you. But to have it taken away like that, it's kind of hard to swallow."
Capps offered no excuse for the pitch Weeks crushed.
"I made one mistake over the plate, and it's a souvenir right now," he said. "It's a frustrating night. It's going to be tough to sleep."
It has been tough for most of the Pirates' back end of the bullpen: Tyler Yates has struggled much of the first five weeks, Grabow has been scored upon in four consecutive appearances, and Capps allowed two runs and five hits in a hair-raising ninth Saturday before clinging to victory.
"All those guys have been good for us, and they'll be good again," Russell said. "But they've hit some bumps."
That might raise this question: Why not let Maholm continue?
He mostly cruised through his first seven innings, needing only 85 pitches, and he fanned Hart for his seventh strikeout to open the eighth, another sign he still was strong. But a full-count walk to Hardy brought Russell from the dugout and Yates into the game. Maholm's pitch count was at 98, which was 33 fewer than Russell allowed Ian Snell to throw last week.
"He'd done his job," Russell said of Maholm. "Paul was outstanding, and we have a lot of confidence in our bullpen."
Was Maholm tired?
"I felt good and thought I could keep going," he replied to that question. "But I also understand that we have a great bullpen. I'll still feel extremely good the next time I turn a lead like that over to those guys."
The Pirates built their 3-1 lead on some unusual power sources: Moss rapped an RBI triple off the fence in center in the second, Andy LaRoche finally hit his first home run of the season in the fourth, and Nate McLouth's RBI single the next inning, and all that came off Yovani Gallardo, who had blanked them through eight innings last week.
But Milwaukee tied in the eighth: Grabow gave up Fielder's single and a Mike Cameron walk to load the bases before Ryan Braun -- who had an MRI earlier in the day for a stiff back -- came off the bench for a two-run bloop double into shallow right to tie. Moss had been on the warning track in the no-doubles defense.
"Never had a chance," Moss said.
Ramon Vazquez singled off Mark DiFelice in the eighth, and Jaramillo drove a ball over Hart's glove in right to score Vazquez and put the Pirates back ahead, 4-3.
The Pirates are 0-4 against the Brewers this year, with the past all close.
"It always feels good to win a game like that," Weeks said. "But they'll come out and fight us again tomorrow."
"I don't know what it is," Maholm said. "Everything was going our way. I don't know if things creep into guys' heads when things go like this against one team, or what it is. We just need to put them away."
The crowd of 8,482 was fourth-smallest in PNC Park history.