Pirates fall to Brewers, 4-1
The Pirates' Neil Walker gets his glove kicked out of his hand by the Brewers' Aramis Ramirez as he steals second base during the sixth inning.
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MILWAUKEE -- For the third consecutive game, strikeouts limited the Pirates offense.
The villain Sunday was Milwaukee Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, who sent 14 Pirates back to the dugout. Two relievers added three more, and the Pirates lost, 4-1, to the Brewers at Miller Park in the final game of the series.
The Pirates struck out a combined 44 times in the three-game series, in which they lost two of three games. The Pirates, even after a month and a half of improved offense, ranked second to last in strikeouts in the National League entering the game.
"We've gotten in a bad rut here swinging the bat as far as striking out," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Gallardo was very good. We were susceptible to a lot of things he was doing."
Gallardo (8-6) set a career high for strikeouts in a game, surpassing his previous record of 13. He has 121 strikeouts in 1151/3 innings this season. He pitched seven innings and allowed one run on four hits.
A.J. Burnett (10-3) matched Gallardo for most of the game, but one rough inning undid his efforts. He allowed four runs in seven innings, striking out seven without allowing a walk. He had good command of his curveball and said his pitches felt as good as they had in some time.
"It's just one of those days, man," he said. "The opposing pitcher pitched a little bit better than I did."
The loss broke Burnett's streak of wins in nine consecutive decisions. He had not been a loser since May 2. He finished seven innings for the first time since June 10, needing only 82 pitches.
The Brewers turned the tables on the Pirates and took advantage of an error to take the lead, much as the Pirates did Saturday. Nyjer Morgan led off the sixth with a single, and Ryan Braun singled to right. Garrett Jones' throw to second went wide, allowing Morgan to score and putting Braun on third. Aramis Ramirez singled up the middle to score Braun.
Burnett struck out Corey Hart, but Ramirez stole second. Rickie Weeks doubled on a hard ground ball down the third-base line that Pedro Alvarez couldn't handle, scoring Ramirez. Martin Maldonado's double drove in Weeks and the Brewers led, 4-1.
"One ball was hit hard that inning," Hurdle said. "Braun smoked that ball into right field. The other balls found grass. We didn't defend very well behind him, which complicated it."
The game stopped briefly when members of the training staff examined second baseman Neil Walker, who took the brunt of Ramirez's slide with his left wrist and forearm, but he stayed in the game. He said afterward he was fine.
"The [Jones] throw and the play at third, those are plays we've got to make," Hurdle said. "We get the throw in, it's first and third. Who knows? We roll a double play, we get out of that inning. We didn't handle the inning very well."
McCutchen homered in his fourth consecutive game, driving a ball out to right field in the fourth for his 21st of the season. He has five home runs in four games and is batting .371 with a .651 slugging percentage this season.
"I've never seen anything like him," Burnett said. "I've played with some great players, Hall of Fame players, but for a guy to come up and be this good, this quick, it's impressive.
"You don't want to blink. You might miss something special."
McCutchen had three of the Pirates' five hits Sunday. The Pirates have been searching for offensive help to supplement McCutchen for some time, and Sunday more reports linked them to the pursuit of Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton. Hurdle has said the improved run production in June and July will not change the pursuit of a hitter.
Sixteen days remain until the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
"We've talked about our needs," Hurdle said regarding offensive help. "I think we've talked about our needs honestly and openly. I'm of the opinion that that's definitely a need that we're talking about."
The Pirates get a reprieve today when they travel to offense-friendly Coors Field for a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies' pitching staff has issued the third-most walks in the National League and ranks 10th in strikeouts.
• Game: Pirates at Rockies, 8:40 p.m., Coors Field.
• TV, radio: Root Sports, KDKA-FM 93.7.
First Published July 15, 2012 4:53 pm