Pirates go down with no fuss, no offense, 2-0
Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen waits for a bird to makes its way past him in the seventh inning against the Brewers last night at PNC Park.
Pirates Virgil Vasquez delivers at pitch against the Brewers.
Pirates pitcher Virgil Vasquez delivers against the Brewers.
Pirates pitcher Virgil Vasquez throws in the first inning.
Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche makes fields a ball hit by the Brewers catcher Jason Kendall.
Pirates right fielder Delwtn Young makes a diving catch on ball hit by the Brewers infielder Craig Counsel.
Brewers shortstop JJ Hardy turns double play over Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez.
Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson, who had the night off, watches from the dugout.
Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit waits to put the tag on Brewers second baseman Felipe Lopez who was going on contact on a ground ball by Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun in the fifth inning.
Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit waits to put the tag on Brewers second baseman Felipe Lopez in the fifth inning.
Brewers pitcher Branden Looper delivers against the Pirates.
Brewers pitcher Braden Looper throws in the fourth inning. Looper earned his ninth win of the season.
Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder singles off Pirates pitcher Virgil Vasquez in the fifth inning, driving in infielder Craig Counsell.
Brewers infielder Craig Counsell scores on a seventh-inning RBI single by first baseman Prince Fielder.
Brewers manager Ken Macha stands in the dugout.
Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman throws in the ninth inning. Hoffman earned his 22nd save of the season.
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This time, everything went quietly for the Pirates.
Way too quietly.
In addition to having no real repercussions from their Monday benches-clearing mess with Milwaukee, they produced no real offense in getting blanked by the Brewers, 2-0, last night before 16,184 at PNC Park.
"It's a broken record, but we've got to score more runs," Pirates manager John Russell said. "You're not going to win too many games with four hits."
Virgil Vasquez limited Milwaukee to two runs over 6 2/3 innings, rebounding from a miserable start in Philadelphia, but it mattered little. The Brewers' Braden Looper allowed those four hits plus three walks in his seven innings and, most important, kept the Pirates hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Looper struck out only one but won praise from both sides, including Pirates left fielder Garrett Jones saying, "He threw a lot of different pitches and put them where he wanted."
But Looper credited his defense, notably two terrific catches in the eighth by center fielder Mike Cameron after Andy LaRoche had singled.
• Game: Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 12:35 p.m., PNC Park.
• TV, radio: WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (6-4, 4.28) vs. RHP Jeff Suppan (5-7, 4.43).
• Key matchup: Milwaukee's Bill Hall is having a dismal .197 season, but he is 16 for 29 in his career vs. Maholm, with three home runs.
• Of note: Although Pirates reliever Evan Meek has allowed at least one baserunner in 24 of 30 appearances, opponents are batting just .192.
"The guys made some plays behind me," Looper said. "I walked a few and pitched a few carefully, but I made pitches when I had to."
Which brings up a question that is becoming a broken record, too: Was it the pitcher or the hitters?
"I wish I could answer that," Russell said.
The Pirates have scored three or fewer runs in 14 of their past 19 games, and they now are 10-39 when that happens, 31-13 when they score more.
They also have been shut out nine times, two more than all of last season. Through the end of July 2008, leading up to the Jason Bay trade, they were shut out three times.
As for that bench-clear, by yesterday, most of the fuss had died down, though clearly not all.
The Pirates had little to add on the subject, with even pitching coach Joe Kerrigan -- whose shouting match with Milwaukee catcher Jason Kendall was the incident's highlight -- saying, "I'd rather just let it go." Russell and his players took similar stances.
The visiting clubhouse was quite different, as the Brewers made no secret of their displeasure with Pirates outfielder Delwyn Young.
While Karstens was being interviewed Monday night by several reporters, Young shouted from across the home clubhouse, "Call him a coward!" That was a transparent reference to Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun, the focus of the Pirates' disdain that night because of his vocal complaints about being hit by Karstens in April that precipitated all this. Young's comment was published in the Post-Gazette and recorded by a local radio station.
Yesterday afternoon, Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder shouted in the Milwaukee clubhouse, "Who the [expletive] is Delwyn Young?"
Cameron said the Brewers would "take care of it" on the field before the game, but neither team took outdoor batting practice and, thus, never crossed paths.
"I'm going directly to the source, so we're going to leave it like that," Cameron said. "We're not going to get into a back-and-forth in the newspaper. This isn't like football. We play each other three times, see each other a lot during the season, so we'll take care of it."
Milwaukee manager Ken Macha mentioned the newspaper issue, too.
"I can't control what they say in their clubhouse," Macha said. "When I was coming up, there was no back-and-forth in the newspaper. ... Some guys like to read what they have to say."
Braun was virtually silent.
"I've got no comment on anything," he said before repeating essentially the same answer to three other questions.
There have been no fines or suspensions from Major League Baseball yet.
The only batter hit last night came in the fourth, when Vasquez's 1-2 cutter struck Craig Counsell on the right arm. Counsell paused at the plate but soon flicked his bat and took first. By all accounts, he never spoke a word.
Pirates reliever Evan Meek threw high and tight to J.J. Hardy in the eighth, but it was a curveball.
Fielder drove in both Milwaukee runs on two-out singles, one in the fifth off Vasquez, the other in the seventh off John Grabow.
Grabow was summoned to face Fielder even though Fielder was 8 for 15 off him in his career.
"He's one of our best relievers," Russell said when asked about his choice.
There was another factor: Fielder's second RBI could have been avoided had Young not taken three or four steps before releasing his throw to the plate from right field.
"He's still not an everyday-type of outfielder," Russell said. "He's got a pretty good arm, but Gary's been working with him on his release."
Bench coach Gary Varsho instructs the outfielders.
Vasquez best summed up the downcast mood among the Pirates, who had been palpably wound up before this one.
"We wanted to beat those guys," he said.
The Pirate Parrot displayed a sense of humor amid the atmosphere, sporting a pair of boxing gloves.
First Published July 22, 2009 12:00 am