Pirates lose as Hart homers off of Hanrahan in ninth
Share with others:
MILWAUKEE -- The box score of this game will show the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pirates when Corey Hart hit a walk-off home run off of Joel Hanrahan in the ninth inning in a 3-2 win.
But the story of this game is that the Pirates lost it in their nine offensive innings before Hart's big swing.
The Pirates (70-62) squandered a handful of run-scoring opportunities and wasted a solid start from struggling pitcher A.J. Burnett to lose their second consecutive game against the Brewers (63-68) Saturday night at Miller Park.
"Plenty of opportunities to capitalize with runners in scoring position, and we weren't able to do that," manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates stranded eight runners and went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position. They dropped to 11/2 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the race for the second and final wild-card playoff spot in the National League. The Cardinals beat the Washington Nationals earlier.
The Pirates struggled to put the ball in play, striking out 13 times.
"That's four innings of the pitcher and catcher playing catch," Hurdle said.
And when it mattered most, they were passive spectators. Four of their 13 strikeouts were looking, including three inning-ending strikeouts with runners in scoring position and the score tied.
That led to Hart's ninth-inning at-bat with the score tied, 2-2. He crushed an 88-mph slider, left hanging over the plate, over the left-field wall for his third career walk-off home run and his 26th home run this season.
"These guys battled their [backsides] off," Hanrahan said. "I come in, throw two pitches, the game's over. Poorly executed pitch."
Entering the at-bat, Hart was 1 for 10 with seven strikeouts in his career against the Pirates' closer. It was the first loss of the season for Hanrahan, who leads the National League in saves.
"The volume of performance has been so good, something like this, it warps you a little bit," Hurdle said. "That's the last thing you're expecting with him coming in."
The loss spoiled a strong outing from Burnett, who entered his start on the heels of an ugly August. The Pirates had lost three of his past four starts, and he finished the month with a 5.18 ERA.
He held the Brewers hitless until the sixth and struck out nine in his best start in almost a month. He pitched 62/3 innings and allowed two hits, the second an RBI double to Carlos Gomez that gave the Brewers a 2-1 lead in the seventh.
He struck out nine, buoyed by a strong four-seam fastball and a sharp breaking ball that he kept away from hitters until Gomez's at-bat.
"He really gave us the start we needed," Hurdle said. "He got back in the form we've seen him."
His command was not at its best -- he walked four and threw a wild pitch.
"I made two mistakes -- two too many," Burnett said.
Burnett said he already put his August struggles behind him. He seemed as if he already put a strong start Saturday behind him, too.
"This was a good step," he said, "but I've got another one coming up."
Milwaukee starter Marco Estrada struck out 10 and allowed one earned run on four hits in seven innings. He had good command, throwing 76 strikes out of 104 pitches.
Gomez tied the score in the third in unorthodox fashion. He walked to lead off the inning and, continuing a theme that started Friday night, stole second and third. He scored on a wild pitch, meaning he made it around the bases without any batter putting the ball in play.
The Brewers had four stolen bases Friday, and had four more Saturday -- all with Burnett on the mound.
Hurdle said Burnett deserves most of the blame for Milwaukee's steals against him.
"A.J.'s pretty methodical," he said. "We've tried quickening him up at times."
Infielder Brock Holt made his major league debut and tied the score in the eighth after drawing a leadoff walk.
Pedro Alvarez hit his team-leading 27th home run of the season, giving the Pirates an early lead.
First Published September 2, 2012 12:16 am