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Pirates shut out by first-place Brewers, 1-0

| Sunday, June 8, 2014, 4:33 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates catcher Russell Martin (right) and manager Clint Hurdle argue with home plate umpire Ed Hickox (left) after Martin was called out on strikes during the eighth inning against the Brewers on Sunday, June 8, 2014, at PNC Park.

While the ball was in the air, both Milwaukee Brewers batter Jonathan Lucroy and Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke wondered if it would land in fair ground. Lucroy's doubt was so strong that he paused midway to first base.

“I knew it was going to be close,” Locke said. “You look up, you see the ball, you see the line. You say, ‘Well, maybe ...' but no.”

Left fielder Starling Marte saw the ball touch down an inch or so from the line and knew it was fair. But Marte wondered if it would carom crazily off the low fence near the seats and get past him if he charged it too aggressively.

“Lucroy's a slow guy,” Marte said. “He's not thinking double. If I get to that ball, no way he gets a double.”

The only person who acted without hesitation was the guy sitting in the first row who reached over the fence and snatched the ball. Lucroy was awarded second base due to fan interference, and eventually scored on Aramis Ramirez's ground out.

The Brewers made that seventh-inning run hold up in a 1-0 victory Sunday against the Pirates.

The game was marked by close calls and near misses, and many of the breaks did not go the Pirates' way. In the first inning, the Pirates had runners on first and third with one out against right-hander Yovani Gallardo. Gaby Sanchez flied out to right fielder Ryan Braun, who made a strong throw to get Neil Walker at the plate and end the inning.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle complained that catcher Lucroy blocked the plate before getting the ball, a violation of MLB's new rule. Walker said he was tagged late. But, after a review of 2 minutes, 46 seconds, the call was upheld.

“I felt like I slid into the plate and he tagged me high,” Walker said. “The replay didn't show that, so that's how it stands.”

Said Hurdle: “We gave it our best shot. They said no on both counts.”

The Brewers scored in the seventh. In the bottom of the inning, the Pirates blew a chance to tie it.

With runners on the corners and one out, Jose Tabata, pinch-hitting for Locke, struck out swinging at a 2-2 fastball. Josh Harrison popped out.

In the eighth, Andrew McCutchen doubled with one out and went to third on Sanchez's grounder. Martin took a curveball for strike three to end the inning, then slammed his bat and helmet to the ground and was ejected. Hurdle also was tossed for arguing with plate umpire Ed Hickox.

“I let my emotions get the best of me,” Martin said. “I got heated. (Hickox) was a little bit generous with his strike zone. I should have known better and fouled off the pitch.”

Lucroy said the way he caught the ball made the pitch look worse.

“I don't think it was a strike, but it was,” Lucroy said with a laugh. “Just one of those crazy things that went our way.”

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said the calls were merely a case of things evening out.

“Go back and look at all the inside pitches that were definitely off the plate, how many of those they got,” Roenicke said. “It's a lot. It's way more pitches than we got.”

Gallardo (4-4) blanked the Pirates on four hits over seven innings. The right-hander walked one and struck out eight.

Locke (0-1) gave up a run on three hits, walked one and struck out five. The left-hander is the first Pirates starter to work a full seven innings since May 18, when Charlie Morton did it in the first game of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees.

“An outstanding job,” Hurdle said. “That's the young man we saw in the first half last year. Jeff gave us everything we could've asked from him and more.”

Locke was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis to fill Gerrit Cole's rotation spot. Before the game, Cole went on the 15-day disabled list with what the Pirates describe as “right shoulder fatigue.”

Sunday originally was Morton's turn to start, but it was pushed back to Monday to give Morton an extra day to work through some performance issues.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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