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Kuwata roughed up in Bucs loss

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

The breathtaking fastball Masumi Kuwata once had deserted him a few years and several surgeries ago. Now, he must outthink hitters and paralyze them with superb control.

When that fails him, the results look like what happened Monday night, when the Milwaukee Brewers scored seven runs off Kuwata and routed the Pirates, 10-3.

"Tonight, I couldn't control it," Kuwata said. "I knew I had to keep the ball down, but ..."

Kuwata (0-1) entered the game in the seventh inning with the score tied, 3-3. Nine batters later, he had gotten just two outs and allowed five hits, including a grand slam by Damian Miller.

The victory dropped the Pirates 13 games behind the first-place Brewers in the National League Central Division.

"(Manager Jim) Tracy told us it was a very important game tonight," Kuwata said. "I knew that. I'm really sorry and disappointed."

It was Kuwata's roughest outing since being called up June 9 from Triple-A Indianapolis. The outburst inflated the right-hander's ERA from 2.53 to 7.94.

Tony Graffanino whacked Kuwata's second pitch for a single. Corey Hart hit an RBI double. J.J. Hardy's single scored Hart to make it 5-3.

With two outs, Prince Fielder, who leads the NL with 27 homers, was intentionally walked. Bill Hall blooped a run-scoring double that landed just inside the right field line. Geoff Jenkins was intentionally walked, loading the bases.

"You'd do it 100 times over," Tracy said of the two walks. "You're not going to let Prince Fielder beat you. And with a base open with Jenkins (batting), you have a better matchup with Damian Miller, who came into the game with a homer and 10 RBI."

Kuwata's 1-1 curveball floated high in the zone, and Miller launched it over the left field wall.

"When I hit a homer, it's an accident," Miller said.

Miller, who also hit a two-run homer in the fourth, went 4 for 5 and finished with a career-high seven RBI.

"It's one of those nights when you have no explanation," Miller said. "Things just fall into place. You get good pitches to hit and put good swings on them. It's nice for me, not being an everyday player anymore, to contribute."

The Brewers' big inning turned what had been a tight, well-played game into a laugher.

Pirates starter John Van Benschoten yielded just three hits in six innings, but left with the score tied, 3-3.

Ex-Pirates pitcher Jeff Suppan went five innings for Milwaukee and allowed three runs on five hits. Carlos Villanueva (6-0) tossed four scoreless innings for the win.

Nate McLouth began the bottom of the first inning with a double over the head of left fielder Jenkins, who appeared to lose the ball in the sun. McLouth scored on Freddy Sanchez's ground out to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.

Van Benschoten battled control problems in the second inning, and the Brewers capitalized.

Fielder walked on five pitches. Hall walked on six. Jenkins' fly ball moved Fielder to third base. On a 2-0 pitch, Miller bounced an RBI single to left.

The Pirates regained the lead in the third. Van Benschoten walked with one out and scored on McLouth's double, which ticked off the glove of center fielder Hall.

The back-and-forth battle continued in the fourth. With two outs and Hall on first base, Miller went deep to left-center.

McLouth's third hit was a one-out single in the fifth. Bautista singled to right and McLouth, who was running with the pitch, went to third. Sanchez flied out to medium center, and McLouth slid home safely, just ahead of Miller's swipe tag, to tie the game at 3-3.

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