Tyler Thornburg’s return to the starting rotation went well as the young right-hander turned in his fourth quality start in as many assignments. However, a three-run homer by Neil Walker in the seventh inning sealed the Milwaukee Brewers’ fate in a 5-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Miller Park Monday afternoon.
It was the Brewers’ fourth straight loss at home after a 4-2 road trip to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Milwaukee continues to have problems under natural light, falling to 14-31 this season in day games and just 7-18 at home during the day.
Thornburg (1-1) worked six innings, allowing two runs on six hits with three walks—one intentional—and four strikeouts.
But Charlie Morton, who lost his first five career decisions against the Brewers, was better, beating Milwaukee for the second time in less than a week. Morton (7-3) went seven innings and allowed two runs, one earned, on seven hits. He walked two and struck out six.
The Brewer bullpen had its fourth shaky outing in a row. Tom Gorzelanny came in to relieve Thornburg to start the top of the seventh and surrendered a single to Morton. Manager Ron Roenicke and the training staff popped out of the dugout after the pitch and Gorzelanny’s day was done after throwing just two pitches.
Alfredo Figaro came in and threw gasoline on the fire. He allowed a single to Jose Tabata—who was 3-for-4 on the day. Neil Walker followed and for the second time in less than a week belted a three-run homer against Milwaukee. The blast to right-center field was his tenth of the season and put the Pirates comfortably ahead, 5-1.
According to the team’s official Twitter account, Gorzelanny left with tightness in his left shoulder. It was his first relief appearance since July 4 at Washington. He was removed from the rotation after taking the loss Wednesday at Pittsburgh.
The Brewers struck first, getting a run in the second inning after two men were out. Juan Francisco beat the infield shift by flaring a ball down the left-field line for a double and Logan Schafer—starting in place of Carlos Gomez, who was given the day off—laced a single off the glove of a diving Walker at second base that trickled into center field to score Francisco.
Pittsburgh came right back in the top of the third with some good old National League baseball. Clint Barmes led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice by Morton and came around to score when Tabata singled to left field.
It appeared the Brewers had a shot to tie it up in the bottom of the third before the inning ended on a bizarre rundown double play. Norichika Aoki led off with a single and went to second when right fielder Marlon Byrd mishandled the ball. Jean Segura appeared to beat out an infield single to short, but was called out on a close play (replay showed he beat the throw), with Aoki advancing to third on the play. Jonathan Lucroy hit a hard grounder at third baseman Pedro Alvarez and Aoki broke for the plate. He was eventually tagged out in a rundown by Alvarez, who then threw to Walker at second to double up Lucroy, who was attempting to advance while Aoki was hung up between third and home.
The Pirates took the lead in the fifth with a familiar formula. Barmes led off with a double into the left-field corner, moved to third on a sacrifice by Morton and scored on a single by Tabata. The inning could have gotten worse after Walker singled to right and both runners moved up on a wild pitch.
Thornburg intentionally walked Alvarez after the wild pitch and struck out Byrd to get out of the bases-loaded jam.
The Brewers did get a gift run in the seventh. With two outs, Aoki beat out a bunt single and moved to second on Segura’s base hit to left. The throw from Tabata bounced away from a nonchalant Alvarez and went into the third-base dugout. Aoki was awarded home plate on the error—charged to Alvarez—and Segura went to third. Lucroy struck out to end the threat as the Crew was just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position in the game.
Michael Blazek, acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, made his Brewer debut and pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning, striking out pinch-hitter Garrett Jones.
After Tony Watson worked a 1-2-3 eighth for the Pirates, Mark Melancon—filling in for injured closer Jason Grilli—converted his tenth save in 12 opportunities, striking out two and allowing a single to pinch-hitter Khris Davis.
The series continues Tuesday night, with Yovani Gallardo (10-9) scheduled to start for Milwaukee and Gerrit Cole (6-7) slated to throw for the Pirates. Game time is 7:10 p.m. Central.
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