After closing the first half of the season on a high note, the Pirates dropped their second straight game to kickoff the second half, losing 8-5 in Milwaukee on Saturday to the Brewers.
After beginning to warm up in the bullpen prior to the game, expected starter Francisco Liriano felt some stiffness in his neck, was scratched from the start, and he was replaced by Vance Worley.
The Pirates got Worley some support early, scoring three runs on four hits in the first inning. They also took advantage of some Brewers miscues to get the early start.
The loss of Liriano was felt in the contest, as Worley struggled to put hitters away most of the night. In the second, Worley was not able to retire his pitching counterpart Jimmy Nelson, who picked up a two-run single to right. Worley also allowed a run in the third, and a two-run homer to Jonathan Lucroy in the fourth.
“It was a crazy game,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Their pitcher was able to regain himself. We gave Worley a yell 25 minutes before the game that he’s going to start. He poured everything he had into the outing. He battled, but he ran out of gas.”
After the first inning, Pittsburgh spread only two more hits until they broke through in the seventh with a pair of runs. Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte each added doubles in the frame.
“We scratched and clawed on offense and got back into the game, but it was just not enough,” Hurdle said.
Nelson once again had the Pirates’ number, as he was dominant in the mid innings. He ended up giving up four runs on seven hits in 6.1 innings, with three walks and eight strikeouts. The final line is a bit deceiving, as he had some bad luck in the first and may have been left in the game too long.
Polanco picked up his hot stretch where he left off before the break with two hits and a pair of runs. Marte also picked up a pair of hits, and Andrew McCutchen scored twice. However, the Brewers were set to not let the former MVP beat them, walking him three times.
Pittsburgh also only got two hits out of the five through nine spots in the order.
Worley allowed seven hits and five runs in four innings of work. Deolis Guerra saw his first struggles of the season, as he allowed a pair of runs in two innings of relief. He also walked two and allowed four hits. Antonio Bastardo allowed a solo home run to continue the night’s pitching woes.
Combined with the big Cardinals win tonight, the loss puts Pittsburgh 4.5 games back in the Central Division.