Ninth-inning collapse sends Pirates to 4-3 loss in Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE — What was a nearly automatic formula for victory last season — handing the ball to the Pirates' bullpen — has become an entirely suspect process in 2014.
The end-game struggles have become something of an epidemic as the Pirates blew a baseball-worst 10th save in a 4-3 walk-off loss to the Brewers on Thursday.
After an encouraging start from Wandy Rodriguez and three dominant innings from relievers Justin Wilson and Tony Watson, Mark Melancon inherited a one-run lead and faltered in the ninth inning.
Melancon allowed a leadoff single to Ryan Braun and then walked Jonathan Lucroy and Mark Reynolds to load the bases with no one out. Khris Davis followed by lining a game-winning, two-run single to center. Melancon entered walking 0.47 batters per nine innings.
“He's a human being, and he just didn't have his best stuff today,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “The walks are uncharacteristic.”
The blown save was Melancon's second of the season in filling in for injured closer Jason Grilli.
Dating to last season, when Melancon also subbed for Grilli, Melancon has recorded 21 saves, but he's also blown seven saves. Is there something different about pitching the ninth inning?
“No,” said a sullen Melancon when meeting with reporters. “I was just pulling it. Two walks aren't going to raise any red flags for me.”
Hurdle said the blown save issue has been bullpen-wide. Grilli has three. Watson, Bryan Morris and Melancon have two blown saves apiece, and Wilson has one.
“Ten (blown saves) is an uncharacteristic number for us,” Hurdle said. The Pirates had 15 all of last season.
Had the Pirates converted saves at a league-average rate, they would be 21-19, not the reality of 17-23 entering a trip to Yankee Stadium.
Overshadowed by the blown save was that the Rodriguez who showed up Thursday had been missing since he left a start with elbow pain June 5 last season in Atlanta.
In making his first start in nearly a month since being placed on the disabled list with right-knee inflammation, Rodriguez showed increased velocity and improved location. Rodriguez came in with a 7.65 ERA on the season.
Rodriguez entered with a fastball averaging 87 mph, down 2 mph from his 2013 average. The Pirates had no idea if the velocity would improve or if this was a new reality. There was perhaps a long exhale from the visiting dugout as Rodriguez's fastball sat 89-90 mph and touched 91 on occasion Thursday, in line with his 2013 velocity.
He allowed four hits, two runs and a walk over five innings, striking out four.
“I don't put too much attention on my speed. I put more attention on that I located the ball wherever I wanted to,” Rodriguez said. “I only made two mistakes.”
There were still two flat offerings. Rickie Weeks homered off Rodriguez in the third, and Martin Maldonado homered in the sixth to tie the score 2-2.
After the homer to Maldonado, Rodriguez responded by striking out the side. Logan Schafer whiffed on a sharp curveball. Rodriguez froze Yovani Gallardo with an 89 mph fastball on the inside corner, and Weeks struck out swinging on a curve to end the inning.
The Pirates also took advantage of home-run happy Miller Park. Tony Sanchez launched a two-run homer off Gallardo, the catcher's first home run of the season, to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead in the fifth.
In the sixth, Gaby Sanchez homered off Gallardo to stake the Pirates to a 3-2 lead. But for the 10th time this season, the Pirates failed to hold a late-inning lead.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Penguins acquire defensemen Lovejoy, Cole in deadline deals
- No tag for Worilds; Steelers cut Moore
- Steelers release WR Lance Moore
- Nasdaq climbs over 5,000 points ... 15 years later
- Arrogant media elites mock Middle America
- St. Vincent men, La Roche women open NCAA D-III tourney Friday
- Pirates notebook: Hart ‘down a few days’ after cutting foot
- Just for Giggles, FBI tags along, finds more than sports paraphernalia at Pittsburgh store
- Rangers up ante in Metropolitan Division with trade acquisitions
- Sales, income taxes increases expected in Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget
- Police charge Beaver County sex offender who snuck into Pittsburgh science center