Bucs' offense can't keep pace with Brewers

Bucs' offense can't keep pace with Brewers

Bucs' offense can't keep pace with Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- On a night the Pirates were trying to continue the hot streak they ended the first half of the season on, they ran into a Milwaukee team looking to turn its ship around.

For one night, anyway, the Brewers' drive proved to be too much, as shortstop Cody Ransom's grand slam off of Tony Watson in the bottom of the eighth dealt the Bucs a 10-7 loss in the first game of the second half on Friday night at Miller Park.

"These guys, they were itching and anxious to play," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of his team. "And the Brewers, they've got a lot to get going in the second half. They came out, and it was a good ballgame until one swing of the bat proved all the separation."

Pittsburgh entered the second half of the season alone in first place in the National League Central. On the flip side, Friday night's contest started a stretch of nine straight games against division foes for the Brewers, who know it could be make or break time.

Although the same sense of urgency isn't necessary in the Pittsburgh clubhouse at this point in the season, Hurdle said the Pirates were excited -- possibly to a fault -- to get back on the field after the All-Star break. Hurdle mentioned his pitchers in particular, including starter James McDonald, as players who might have been too energized coming back.

McDonald's day started poorly, as he surrendered three runs -- two of which were earned -- in the first inning. The first run came on a Ryan Braun homer, which was followed by a walk, a single and a double that scored the next two runs.

The right-hander allowed four earned runs, eight hits and five walks in 4 2/3 innings.

"[Pitching coach Ray Searage] said if we could have hooked an electrical cord to him, we could have lit up the stadium," Hurdle said. "We had a couple pitchers like that out there tonight. Just amped up and ready to go."

McDonald agreed he didn't throw the ball well, but did not agree with Hurdle's explanation for why. Refusing to use the down time as an excuse, McDonald said he was sloppy and along with his five walks, he spent too much time behind in the count to the Brewers.

"They're good hitters," he said. "And once you get behind good hitters, things are probably going to be pretty bad."

Fortunately for the Pirates, their hitters were also able to get to Brewers' ace Zack Greinke, as neither starter made it into the sixth inning.

Unlike McDonald, Greinke started hot, retiring six of seven batters in the first two innings. However, Pittsburgh put together six runs in his final three innings of work to chase him from the game early.

The attack started in the third inning, when McDonald drew a one-out walk from Greinke on five pitches. The Pirates then managed to load the bases for right fielder Garrett Jones, who hit a two-out groundball to Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks. However, the ball took a funny hop, allowing Jones to reach safely and McDonald to score Pittsburgh's first run.

The Pirates delivered more two-out damage in the fourth inning, as left fielder Drew Sutton hit an RBI double to left field, before second baseman Neil Walker extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a three-run homer that put Pittsburgh on top, 5-3.

In the top of the fifth, third baseman Pedro Alvarez hit a solo home run to negate a run scored by the Brewers in the bottom of the fourth. It also marked the first time this season that a team has connected for more than one home run against Greinke, who gave the credit to the Pirates.

"I didn't pitch perfect, by any means, but I would take that at least over 50 percent of the time, pitching like that," Greinke said. "They capitalized on all of their opportunities, but in the end of things, we did the same to them."

Two innings later, though, the game was tied thanks to Braun's second home run of the night -- this one coming off right-hander Brad Lincoln, who surrendered a run in relief for the first time since May 9.

The game remained tied until the eighth, when Braun once again ignited the Milwaukee attack. His one-out single -- his fourth hit of the night -- was followed by an Aramis Ramirez single. And, after first baseman Corey Hart struck out, Weeks was intentionally walked to load the bases, bringing Ransom to the plate with two outs.

Watson said the pitch was a mistake.

"I wasn't locating," he said. "Some pitches got away from me, and I threw one right down the middle on 2-2. We were trying to go in. I went right down the middle, and a Major League hitter hit it out."

Jeremy Warnemuende is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.