Pirates' 0-17 run vs. Brewers longest since 1970
Freddy Sanchez hurt his shoulder diving for a ball hit by Milwaukee's Craig Counsell. He stayed in the game and later homered.
A Brewers fan at PNC Park last night came to rub it in.
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Make it a sorry 17.
The Pirates' latest in a litany of losses to Milwaukee, a nails-to-the-chalkboard 8-5 outcome last night at PNC Park, was their 17th in a row to the Brewers, marking Major League Baseball's longest such streak between two teams in four decades: The most recent with 17 or more was the Baltimore Orioles' 23-game streak against the Kansas City Royals in 1969-70.
This time, it was J.J. Hardy coming through for Milwaukee, going 3 for 3 with runners in scoring position after having been 2 for 25 previously in such situations, and had four RBIs. And this after he lugged a 3-for-27 slump into the game.
The kind of breakout that probably happens for the Brewers exclusively against the Pirates.
• Game: Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 8:15 p.m., Busch Stadium.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (3-2, 2.21) vs. RHP Mitchell Boggs (1-0, 3.29)
• Key matchup: Albert Pujols, who yesterday was named National League player of the month for his .337 April, is 11 for 25 with a home run and three doubles against Duke.
• Of note: St. Louis' starters are 14-5 and have allowed only 10 home runs, each figure the best in Major League Baseball. Their 3.66 ERA ranks third.
Not the way John Russell sees it.
"They're just a strong-hitting team," the Pirates' manager said. "They've got power all through their lineup. We've played them tough, but they've gotten some big hits."
The other side, apparently, sees the streak no differently.
"It's not something that factors into the equation for us, but it's pretty remarkable," Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun said. "That's not easy to do, because they're a really good team."
Brewers manager Ken Macha sounded impressed by the magnitude of it.
"Nineteen-seventy? I was there for the Oakland-Seattle thing," he said, referring to his Athletics winning 15 in a row over the Mariners in 2006. "It was uncanny."
"It's a pretty big accomplishment," Hardy said.
The Pirates' last victory against Milwaukee came May 22, 2008, and the combined score in favor of the Brewers since then has been 111-50.
Maybe there is something to it.
"You can only say it's coincidence for so long," Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "At some point, you've just got to say we're getting outplayed by these guys. Sure, they have a lot of confidence when they play us, and that probably helps. But we've got to find a way."
Ian Snell started and struggled, charged with five runs in five-plus innings. Three of his four were doubles, and he walked five.
Notably, he struck out only two, and his fastball topped out at 93 mph, this following the eyebrow-raising start last week in Milwaukee in which he made 131 pitches, most in Major League Baseball this season.
"It didn't feel like I had anything over 94 or 95 in my tank," Snell said. "I tried my best, and that's all I can do."
He was asked if the high pitch count last week might have been a factor.
"You can think what you want, but I don't know. I can't tell you that," he replied. "I'm not going to make any excuses."
Russell pointed to Snell allowing three hits after two-strike counts, two of those to Hardy for RBIs.
"He couldn't finish hitters off," Russell said. "If he does that, it's a different game."
In the first inning, second baseman Freddy Sanchez hurt his right shoulder, the same one that bothered him all last summer, but finished the game.
He made an excellent, diving stop on Craig Counsell's grounder, cringed upon falling to the grass, and still threw from his knees for the out. As he arose, he slumped the shoulder in obvious pain, but athletic trainer Brad Henderson visited and cleared him to stay.
Good thing, too: With Sanchez's at-bat in the bottom half, he crushed Jeff Suppan's 87-mph fastball into the left-field bleachers for his third home run and a 1-0 lead.
He will be reevaluated this afternoon in St. Louis.
"It's fine," Sanchez said. "But it was a little bit of a scare because of last year."
He fell similarly in the opening series of 2008 in Atlanta, and it hurt his performance for two months.
"Freddy's strength was still good, and it was good that he could finish," Russell said. "But we'll watch it."
Milwaukee steadily ran up three against Snell through four innings, that on two hits each by Corey Hart and Hardy. The Pirates pulled within 3-2 in the fourth on Jason Jaramillo's RBI single, but the Brewers tacked on three in the sixth: Snell walked his first two batters, prompting Russell to summon Jesse Chavez. After a forceout, Chavez gave up two hits and two walks.
The Pirates' pitchers, in addition to walking nine and hitting a batter, reached 18 three-ball counts. That made for a total of 16 walks and 28 three-ball counts between the teams, and it pushed the game to an excruciating three hours, 35 minutes.
"Not a well-pitched game," Macha said.
On top of all that, it drizzled all night, and no more than one-third of the paid crowd of 9,775 actually attended.
The Pirates do not see the Brewers again until July 20, so there is a better-than-zero chance they will win between now and then.
First Published May 6, 2009 12:00 am