Alvarez struggles as Pirates fall short against Brewers
The Pirates finally found production from their No. 2 spot in the lineup.
The fourth spot was a different story.
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez was 0 for 5 with two strikeouts and he stranded eight runners in Friday night's 5-3 loss to the Brewers at PNC Park.
With three groundouts, Alvarez never left the infield.
Milwaukee's Kyle Lohse (3-1) escaped a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the third by striking out Alvarez and forcing Neil Walker to pop out to third. Alvarez saw five pitches and swung once, missing a 90 mph fastball for strike three. It was the only fastball Lohse threw him.
Against left-handed reliever Will Smith, Alvarez struck out in the seventh with two men on base. Against closer Francisco Rodriguez, he grounded out in the ninth with one on.
Russell Martin batting second seems to have fixed that lineup issue. Martin has four hits and three RBIs in two games since moving there.
But Alvarez on Friday provided little from the cleanup spot. In 97 games as the No. 4 hitter, Alvarez has a .183 average and .652 OPS. Alvarez, Walker and Gabby Sanchez, the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 hitters, were 0 for 13 combined.
“We hit a couple of balls hard ... but there were a lot at-bats in between (that were) strikeouts or might have chased a ball out of the zone,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We just weren't able to get that at bat when we needed it, repeatedly.”
The Pirates (8-9) were 3 for 12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 11. With the bases loaded in the eighth, Starling Marte hit an inning-ending infield fly.
The Pirates lost 4-1 last Sunday when Lohse and Charlie Morton faced off in Milwaukee. That day, Lohse finished one out short of a complete game four-hitter. He was sharp when needed in the rematch.
Lohse allowed three runs, one earned, in 6.1 innings. He gave up four hits and three walks and struck out five. The right-hander allowed four hits, one run and no walks and struck out nine in last weekend's matchup.
Morton (0-2) lacked consistency with his delivery, Hurdle said. Morton allowed eight hits and five runs in six inning, with two walks, three strikeouts and two hit batters.
After three scoreless innings, Morton allowed three runs in the fourth.
“He lost the repeatable delivery that he has,” Hurdle said. “Just the timing was off. He spun out of his delivery a couple times. A very solid first three innings, and then you saw the challenges that came up in the fourth, fifth and a little bit in the sixth.”
“I guess it's repeatability,” Morton said. “It's also just basic execution.”
The Pirates led 1-0 after two first-inning errors by the Brewers. Marte reached base with an infield pop-up when infielders Mark Reynolds and Aramis Ramirez collided near the pitcher's mound. When Marte stole second, a throw into center field moved him to third. He scored on Martin's grounder to short.
Martin drove in another run in the third with a single to center that scored Jordy Mercer to increase the lead to 2-0.
A three-run fourth inning gave the Brewers the lead. After Ryan Braun doubled, Ramirez walked and Khris Davis was hit by a pitch. Scooter Gennett then hit a two-run double to right-center. Gennett scored the go-ahead run on a two-out single by Martin Maldonado.
“That fourth inning was crucial to execute pitches, and I didn't,” Morton said.
A fifth-inning leadoff home run by Carlos Gomez and his RBI single in the sixth made it 5-2.
A two-out double by Andrew McCutchen in the seventh scored Clint Barmes. But with McCutchen and Marte on base, Alvarez struck out.
Mercer hurt his right ankle in the third when Maldonado slid into his foot at second base. Mercer said the ankle was bruised but didn't believe the injury was serious.
“It caught me right above the ankle,” he said. “That's a way better location (than the joint).”
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