PITTSBURGH -- Presented with an opportunity to gain ground in the National League Wild Card race, and with renewed life following a clutch Andrew McCutchen homer, the Pirates let both slip away in the eighth inning of a 7-4 loss to the Brewers on Saturday night at PNC Park.
"We ended up sending 10 hitters to the plate, and everybody did have a hand in it," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "That was a great inning."
Pittsburgh lost its fifth straight game, tying the club's longest losing streak of the season, and missed a chance to pull closer to St. Louis for the second NL Wild Card spot, as the Cardinals lost to the Reds earlier Saturday. Instead, the Bucs remained 2 1/2 games behind the Cards and saw their record drop to just one game above .500, 67-66. In the process, they let Ivan Nova's solid six-inning start and McCutchen's game-tying homer in the seventh inning go to waste.
"I felt like momentum changed. McCutchen homered. It was a good change," said reliever Jared Hughes, who defused a bases-loaded, one-out jam with a ground-ball double play the half-inning before McCutchen homered. "At the same time, there was still a lot of baseball to be played."
The Brewers took a 2-1 lead on Chris Carter's home run off Nova in the sixth inning and jumped all over the Pirates in a messy eighth inning. Pittsburgh reliever Neftali Feliz gave up two singles then left due to injury, and Milwaukee ran up four runs on three hits and two walks against lefties Felipe Rivero and Kelvin Marte. Carter led the way for the Brewers, going 4-for-5 with three RBIs, while rookies Keon Broxton and Orlando Arcia each tallied three hits. Arcia fell a homer shy of the cycle, hitting a triple in the fifth and a double in the seventh followed by an RBI single in the eighth.
The Pirates rallied for two more runs in the eighth, but it was too little, too late. Pittsburgh racked up nine hits and six walks but missed on a handful of scoring opportunities, going 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and leaving nine men on base.
"We've got to find a way to score runs," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The last two nights in particular, we haven't taken advantage of the opportunities that we've created."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Clutch Cutch: Trailing by a run with two outs and nobody on base in the seventh, and having scored one run in the previous 15 innings, the Pirates needed someone to jolt their lineup back to life. McCutchen provided Pittsburgh with a spark, ripping a game-tying homer to right-center field off Brewers reliever Carlos Torres. McCutchen's 19th homer of the season came off his bat at 100 mph, according to Statcast™, and traveled 394 feet into the outfield seats.
Carter goes deep: The Brewers tagged Nova with two runs in the sixth inning. Scooter Gennett led off with a double and advanced to third base with two outs. Carter launched the first pitch from Nova into the left-field stands, his 31st home run of the season, putting the Brewers on top, 2-1. More >
Full Nelson: Brewers right-hander Jimmy Nelson battled his way through 5 1/3 innings and allowed one run on four hits. He had control issues, walking six while recording four strikeouts. Relievers Jhan Marinez and Brent Suter got Nelson out of a jam unscathed in the sixth inning, stranding runners on first and second.
"I felt pretty good stuff-wise," Nelson said. "I shot myself in the foot a little bit with all the walks and ran my pitch count up. But the defense picked me up with two double plays while I was in there. They picked me up and did a good job."
Scoop, there it is: Nova helped keep a Brewers run off the board in the fifth inning after Arcia's leadoff triple to left. Martin Maldonado tapped the ball back in front of the plate. Nova charged off the mound, scooped the ball into his glove and flipped it to Francisco Cervelli, who tagged out the sliding Arcia at the plate. With Carter's homer the only ding against him, Nova put together another quality start, allowing two runs over six efficient innings. Nova owns a 2.89 ERA in six starts for Pittsburgh, and Saturday was the first time the Bucs lost with Nova on the mound.
"Only one pitch, that's it. You're not supposed to win every game by one," Cervelli said. "We've got to score runs. He did everything [he could], and we didn't score runs. I think it's our fault."
"The fans didn't like that, but it wasn't that I don't want to run. I thought he caught the ball. I didn't look back. After that, I had to test it a few times." -- Nova, nursing a sore hamstring, on being booed by the home crowd for not running out a perfectly-placed sacrifice bunt that Maldonado misplayed
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
By stealing second base in the first inning, Broxton became the sixth Brewers rookie to have 20 stolen bases in a season.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The Pirates challenged whether Jake Elmore was safe on a play at the plate in the eighth inning. After a short replay review, the call was confirmed and the Brewers took a 5-2 lead. Pittsburgh lost its challenge.
BLACK AND GOLD DEBUT Kelvin Marte replaced Rivero in the eighth, making a Major League debut long in the making. Marte's Minor League career began in 2007, and he got his first taste of the big leagues when he was called up in Chicago earlier this week. Marte became the 11th Pirates player to make his big league debut this season. It wasn't an ideal beginning, however, as the first batter he faced -- Broxton -- punched an RBI single to center field.
WHAT'S NEXT Brewers: Right-hander Chase Anderson (7-11, 4.92 ERA) will be on the hill on Sunday at 12:35 p.m. CT in the finale of a three-game series at PNC Park. Anderson has gone 3-1 in his last seven starts with a 3.06 ERA, and the Crew is 10-15 in his starts this season.
Pirates: Rookie left-hander Steven Brault (0-1, 3.86 ERA) will start for the Pirates in the 1:35 p.m. ET series finale against the Brewers on Sunday at PNC Park. Brault quickly ran up a high pitch count in four innings at Wrigley Field his last time out, but he held the Brewers to three runs over six innings in Milwaukee on July 29.