Punchless Pirates lose to Brewers for seventh consecutive setback
The sixth inning summed up the past two weeks well.
The Pirates had runners at first and third with no outs in a one-run game. But after a strikeout and two weak fly balls, Adam Frazier and Starling Marte were left stranded Tuesday night in a 1-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park. The Pirates had six hits, all singles, and were shut out for the second game in a row.
“I don't think it's (from hitters) pressing or anything,” Frazier said. “Maybe a little bit of lack of focus here and there. I've fallen victim to that myself. We've just got to lock in and do our job.”
Only twice in the past two weeks has the team scored more than two runs, a September slide that earned the Pirates their seventh consecutive loss. Overall, the Pirates lost for the 12th time in 13 games and remained just 1½ games away from last place in the NL Central.
“We just really haven't been able to get that hit to get the offense rolling,” Frazier said.
The middle of the order — Andrew McCutchen, Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco — went 0 for 12 with five strikeouts. They accounted for all three outs in the sixth when the Pirates had Frazier and Marte on base.
McCutchen struck out swinging on a 95 mph fastball for the first out. Marte, who had reached on a bunt single, stole second before Bell flew out to shallow center and Polanco hit a popup to short.
“We weren't able to capitalize on that opportunity,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We had six singles. Guys are going up there battling. We're just not getting things done.”
The Pirates have scored 22 runs over the past 13 games.
Chris Bostick reached with a pinch-hit infield single in the eighth, but three fly balls stranded him, as well.
The Pirates squandered a solid five-inning outing from starter Trevor Williams (6-9), who allowed three hits, two walks and struck out six. He worked down in the zone and was almost flawless except for an 82 mph slider in the fourth that Brewers outfielder Domingo Santana drove into the left-field seats.
Dovydas Neverauskas, Daniel Hudson, Edgar Santana and George Kontos combined for four scoreless innings in relief.
“We haven't been able to get enough run support to help them on that side,” Hurdle said. “However, guys are getting down the line. Guys are battling at-bats. There's nobody that's happy in there, so you keep them fresh for the next day. Feel what you need to feel. There needs to be some angst, and there is.”
Brewers starter Chase Anderson (11-3) threw six scoreless innings, allowing five hits and no walks while striking out eight. Anthony Swarzak threw two scoreless innings in relief, and Corey Knebel pitched a perfect ninth for his 37th save.
“We've been facing some good pitchers,” Williams said. “Anderson has been on a roll for them. He's kind of fallen into their ace role. They have one of the best closers in the game, and they've got a great bullpen that they traded for at the deadline. We'll always go through valleys. We'll get to peaks. Unfortunately it's toward the end of the year, and we're in that valley.”
The Pirates have four games left on this final homestand, one with the Brewers and three with the Cardinals, before heading on the road for a season-ending four-game series against the Nationals. Tuesday's loss drew 13,929.
“I don't like losing,” Hurdle said. “I don't know a man who likes losing. We've done our fair share for awhile now.”
Williams entered Tuesday's start 2-4 in his previous seven outings, alternating at times between good and bad. In starts against the Tigers, Dodgers and Reds, he threw 22 scoreless innings combined. But in four others in that same six-week span, he surrendered 18 runs in 182⁄3 innings.
On this night, he was sharp.
Besides Santana's solo homer, the only hits Williams allowed were a pair of two-out singles in the second. But he escaped that jam with a three-pitch swinging strikeout of Anderson, the Brewers' pitcher. Williams was replaced before the sixth after 87 pitches.
“It was good tonight to get ahead of hitters,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, it was the front-row homer that did it for them. Sometimes that's just baseball.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.