MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers were missing the heart of their batting order on Sunday, though left fielder Ryan Braun nearly made his presence felt off the bench.
Braun missed the start with a strained right Achilles and third baseman Aramis Ramirez was out with a strained left quadriceps, the first time this season that the Brewers' 3-4 hitters missed the same start. With catcher Jonathan Lucroy on the disabled list with a fractured hand, the Brewers played without their top three run producers.
But Braun nearly gave the Brewers a spark, igniting the Miller Park crowd when he pinch-hit in the eighth inning with two runners on, two outs and his team down a run. Braun hit Pirates reliever Jason Grilli's first pitch to the right-field warning track, only a few feet shy of a go-ahead home run, and the Brewers went on to lose, 6-5.
"I knew I hit it on the barrel and it had a chance, but I didn't think it was going to get out," Braun said.
From the on-deck circle, teammate Brooks Conrad saw differently.
"I thought he had it, I really did," Conrad said.
The Brewers hope to get more than one at-bat out of Braun and Ramirez on Tuesday, when the team returns to action against the Cubs. Manager Ron Roenicke said decisions would not be made until Tuesday afternoon.
Asked whether he might be back in the lineup that day, Braun said, "I hope so."
Ramirez was asked the same question.
"I should be good for Tuesday," he said.
Roenicke would welcome both hitters' return. Sunday's lineup -- different for the 18th consecutive game -- was the most difficult to set this season, Roenicke said.
"It's been a weird season so far," he said. "But I still think, with the pitching staff and whoever we put out there -- just like [Sunday]. We've done a lineup similar to this before, and we scored 16 runs so it's hard to predict what's going to happen."
Ramirez was hurt in Saturday's 5-1 win legging out a double. Braun has been bothered by a tight right Achilles since May 1. Trying to protect his Achilles, Braun slid awkwardly on Friday, re-injured the Achilles and also agitated his right hip.