Share This Page

Pair of Braun homers spells defeat for Pirates

| Saturday, April 19, 2014, 10:24 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pinch-hitter Travis Snider drives in two runs with a hit during the fourth inning against the Brewers on Saturday, April 19, 2014, at PNC Park.

The Pirates like Ike. They are hoping to have better feelings soon regarding some key members of their pitching staff.

A day after the Pirates acquired left-handed-hitting first baseman Ike Davis to bolster their lineup, run prevention was the Pirates' more notable issue. Jason Grilli blew his second save of the season, allowing a two-run homer to Ryan Braun in the ninth inning, and Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez failed to pitch into the fifth inning of an 8-7 loss to the Brewers on Saturday.

“I embrace the challenge of an atmosphere and an environment like this,” said Braun, who was booed by the 32,490 in attendance before each at bat. “As a competitor, I think it makes it enjoyable. It makes it challenging.”

The Pirates have lost five of six games to Milwaukee this season.

“Not where I wanted it, obviously,” said Grilli of the 94 mph pitch Braun hit out to center field. “We were trying to bust him in all night and left it out over the plate.”

Grilli has some troubling early trend lines as his strikeouts are down and his walks and ERA are up. He didn't blow a save until the middle of June last season.

The normally consistent Tony Watson allowed Braun's first homer in the seventh inning to cut the Pirates' lead to 7-6. Rodriguez's early-season issues are more pronounced than just about any pitcher on the staff, and they continued Saturday.

Rodriguez's fastball has lost 2 mph in velocity this season in returning from elbow tendonitis. But it's been location misses that have been most damaging for the veteran left-hander.

In the third inning, Aramis Ramirez and Jonathan Lucroy rifled back-to-back RBI hits off Rodriguez mistakes, and in the fourth inning Mark Reynolds launched a home run to right-center off an 88 mph Rodriguez fastball that caught too much of the plate. The shot gave the Brewers a 4-1 lead. It was the seventh home run Rodriguez has allowed in 20 innings this season.

Rodriguez was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning. He left the game with a 7.65 ERA, and 25 percent of fly balls allowed have gone for home runs.

“I need to throw the ball down. I don't have a fastball like 98 (mph). Then I could go up,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez's poor start and the blown save overshadowed Davis' successful. He reached base three times and scored twice.

Even though Davis only had been in Pittsburgh for several hours before stepping to the plate for the first time in the second inning, he already had an idea of how to adapt to life at PNC Park.

Before the game, Davis was asked about the right-field Clemente Wall, which has a distance from home plate that makes it a tempting target for left-handed hitters.

Davis said he was not thinking much about the more hitter-friendly, right-field dimensions because he rarely sees inside fastballs. His opposite-field focus allowed for a successful debut.

In his first at-bat, Davis lined a double down the left-field line off Matt Garza. Neil Walker singled in Davis for the Pirates' first run of the game.

In the fourth inning, Davis demonstrated the one skill that has been consistent throughout his up-and-down career — the ability to walk — and he later scored on a two-run, pinch-hit single by Travis Snider to give the Pirates a 6-4 lead, capping a five-run frame.

Jose Tabata and Clint Barmes, starting over Jordy Mercer (lower leg injury) who later pinch hit, also recorded run-scoring singles in the game off Garza, who allowed six runs — five earned — over five innings.

Davis, who went 2 for 3, also singled off Brewers right-handed reliever Rob Wooten.

“It was nice to get on a couple times,” Davis said. “You always want to get off to a good start, especially in a new environment.”

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.