Pirates can't complete sweep of Brewers

Travis Sawchik
| Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, 5:03 p.m.

MILWAUKEE — The Pirates are still sweep-less (against the former Seattle Pilots) in Milwaukee.

The Pirates missed an opportunity to sweep the Milwaukee Brewers in Miller Park on Sunday with a 4-3 loss. The sweep drought will continue as the Pirates do not return to Milwaukee in the regular season. They haven't swept the Brewers on their home turf in more than 3,700 days, last taking three straight in a series in Milwaukee on April 30-May 2, 2004.

While the Pirates received another shaky performance from a back-of-the-rotation member in Vance Worley, this time, the Pirates' bats were mostly quieted. The Pirates produced just two hits against Brewers starter Mike Fiers, and four in the game, as they fell five games behind the Brewers in the NL Central.

While the Pirates were unable to complete a sweep, they must consider themselves fortunate to have won two out of three games in Milwaukee judging by the starting pitching they received from Worley, Jeff Locke and Edinson Volquez. The three starters combined for 18 innings over the weekend, allowing 25 hits, nine walks, and striking out eight. They were more lucky than good to allow only eight combined runs.

After allowing six runs in the first inning of his last start against Atlanta, Worley allowed eight two-out hits in the first two innings that accounted for four runs Sunday.

“Off-speed was up early. The first two innings are what beat me,” Worley said. “After that, I made adjustments. I was able to get the ball back down in the zone.”

Worley finished with an ugly line, allowing 12 hits and four runs over 6 13 innings.

“He has to stay aggressive, not that he was picking … but pound the zone,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Unlike Volquez and Locke, Worley did not have the fortune of being backed by a strong offensive effort.

The Pirates were hoping to get a boost from Gregory Polanco, who returned to right field following a four-day absence from the starting lineup. But Polanco continued to look tired at the plate Sunday, striking out in his three plate appearances.

Polanco struck out swinging at a changeup in the first.

In the fourth, Polanco was late on a 91 mph Fiers fastball for his second strikeout of the game. Polanco has struggled to catch up to fastballs, as his swing has lengthened.

In the sixth inning, Polanco watched a 90 mph fastball from Fiers go by for a strikeout looking. Travis Snider pinch-hit for him in the ninth.

“We just encouraged him to get aggressive on the fastball. ... The timing wasn't what we wanted it to be,” Hurdle said.

Fiers struck out seven.

Pedro Alvarez earned a second consecutive start at first base for the first time in his career after a two-homer day Saturday. Alvarez did not homer, but he did have productive at bats.

Alvarez drew a two-out walk in the second inning, showing good pitch recognition.

Starling Marte continued to stay red hot in returning from the DL, as he followed Alvarez by homering to center to tie the score 2-2. But that would be all the Pirates would get against Fiers, who has been dominant in recent starts despite possessing average fastball velocity. Fiers allowed the two runs over seven innings.

“It's like real estate. It's all about location,” Hurdle said. “You don't have to throw hard.”

Andrew McCutchen homered in the ninth to make it a one-run game, but Francisco Rodriguez struck out Alvarez to end it with the tying run on first.

Still, the Pirates walk away with a series win. Said McCutchen: “We are right where we need to be.”

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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