Pirates lose to Brewers, fall back to .500

| Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, 10:12 p.m.

Looks like Jerry Meals is off the hook.

Wednesday night marked one month since the Pirates beat the St. Louis Cardinals in 19 innings. With their 3-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in front of 15,337 at PNC Park, their record since then is 7-20.

Their record in the 27 games following 2011's 19-inning loss to the Atlanta Braves in which Meals infamously blew the call at home plate?

You guessed it, 7-20.

The Pirates are back at .500 (74-74) for the first time since June 2, when they were 26-26. When they beat the Cardinals a month ago in that marathon game, they were 13 games over .500 and led the Brewers by 12 12 games for the final wild-card spot.

The Brewers passed the Pirates in the wild-card standings with their win Tuesday.

“We haven't played well. It's been a while,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We earned the position we were in before, and we've earned this position, as well.”

The Pirates have little to show from their first two games of this series, other than ending a 23-inning scoreless streak when Andrew McCutchen led off the ninth inning with a home run off John Axford. Prior to that, they hadn't scored since plating three runs in the third inning Monday night in Chicago.

Brewers right-hander Marco Estrada (4-6) made his third start of the year against the Pirates and earned his first win after two no-decisions, and Hurdle said Estrada's attacked the Pirates the same way in all three starts.

“There come certain situations where you have to go a different way,” Hurdle said. “You can't continually do or look for what you want to look for and expect a different result than what you've been getting.”

The Pirates produced just three hits in seven innings and have totaled just nine hits in the past two games.

Right-hander Kyle McPherson (0-1) made his first major league start for the Pirates and gave up a home run to Norichika Aoki on the second pitch of the game but limited the Brewers to just four more hits — all singles — through four innings.

The Pirates' defense turned inning-ending double-plays in the third, fourth and fifth with the game well within reach, but the offense couldn't catch up.

“For whatever reason, collectively, we haven't been hitting the ball like we were some weeks ago,” Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones said.

“We're not having much luck, and we're not squaring up pitches that we do get, and it's taking its toll.”

Pirates right fielder Travis Snider singled off reliever Jim Henderson to lead off the eighth, but pinch-hitters Jose Tabata and Jeff Clement struck out.

Neil Walker, also pinch-hitting, walked to put two men on base for the first time all night, but Starling Marte struck out to finish the night 0 for 4.

“If you want more, you have to do more,” Hurdle said. “Everyone in there wants more; I want more. We have to do more.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kprice@tribweb.com or 412-320-7980.

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