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Right pitch at right time ends poorly for Pirates

Rob Biertempfel
| Monday, Aug. 15, 2011

MILWAUKEE -- It was, the Pirates insist, the right pitch from the right guy at the right time. It just got the wrong result.

A wild pitch by closer Joel Hanrahan extended the eighth inning Sunday and helped the Milwaukee Brewers erase the Pirates' one-run lead. The Brewers won, 2-1, in the 10th on Nyjer Morgan's sacrifice fly to complete a three-game sweep and move 13 games ahead of the Pirates in the NL Central.

Right-hander Charlie Morton held the Brewers scoreless for seven innings. In the eighth, with the Pirates up, 1-0, Jonathan Lucroy led off with a soft single to left field. After a sacrifice bunt by Mt. Lebanon's Josh Wilson, Morton was replaced by Jose Veras.

"When there's no safety net, no margin for error, it's tough," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Veras got Casey McGehee to fly out. Hurdle then called for Hanrahan, who hadn't pitched since Wednesday, to try for a four-out save.

"We had the right guy in -- no doubt," Hurdle said. "We wanted out best (reliever) to slam the door."

On a 1-2 count, Hanrahan threw a slider with nasty bite. Morgan swung and missed as the ball crashed into the dirt.

A perfect pitch. Too perfect.

"I made the pitch that I wanted to," Hanrahan said. "It might have been a little, you know ... it bounced in the dirt. It's a tough pitch to handle."

The ball bounced in front of catcher Michael McKenry and rolled away.

"It's my fault," McKenry said. "Ninety-nine out of 100 times, I block it. I didn't, and it cost us the game. You can make 1,000 excuses, but I'm not going to do that. It's my fault."

Morgan reached first base, and pinch runner Jerry Hairston Jr. went to third.

"It was a great pitch, a swing-and-miss pitch," Hurdle said. "Unfortunately, as good as (McKenry) has been at blocking balls, it probably wasn't the textbook way to go at that one."

Ryan Braun then lined a one-strike fastball up the middle, and Hairston scored to tie it. The run belonged to Morton, snapping his streak of 24 1/3 scoreless innings.

Morton had not allowed a run since the second inning July 29 at Philadelphia. It was the third-longest streak in Pirates history, trailing only those turned in by Bill Landrum (31 2/3 innings in 1989) and Jack Chesbro (41 in 1902).

The Pirates loaded the bases with two outs in the 10th, but Brandon Wood tapped the ball to catcher George Kottaras, who got an easy forceout at home.

"Hit it off the end of the bat," Wood said. "We had our chances but didn't do anything with them."

In the bottom of the inning, Kottaras lined a one-out single to left off Chris Resop (3-4) and went to third on McGehee's double. Morgan smacked the first pitch to right field, plenty deep to score Kottaras.

"I knew they wanted to pitch me inside, and I was looking for a ball up," Morgan said. "I was so fired up, I almost forgot to run."

Additional Information:

Tonight's game

vs. Cardinals

7:05 p.m. today, PNC Park

TV/radio: Root Sports/WPGB-FM (104.7), WCNS-AM (1480), WJPA-AM (1450), XM 186

Probable starters : St. Louis RHP Jake Westbrook (9-6, 4.74 ERA) vs. Pittsburgh RHP James McDonald (7-6, 4.24 ERA)

Additional Information:

Around the Pirates

MILWAUKEE -- Pirates general manager Neal Huntington is debating whether to send third baseman Pedro Alvarez back to Triple-A Indianapolis.

'He looks like a player who's lost his way,' Huntington said Sunday on his weekly radio show, noting Alvarez's work in batting practice is not carrying over to games. 'He's got to make some adjustments. There are situations where it is better for a player to learn and develop at the major league level. Other times, it's best for a player to develop and learn in the minors.'

Indianapolis has 21 games left before its regular season ends Sept. 5.

Manager Clint Hurdle said Alvarez is carrying his struggles at the plate into the field. Alvarez is in an 0-for-11 funk, dropping his batting average to .197, and has made an error in three of the past seven games he has started.

Alvarez started yesterday but was replaced by Brandon Wood in the seventh inning.

'It's a topic of discussion,' Hurdle said. 'There's a lot Pedro's trying to work through. We saw him play a much more accountable third base early in the season. It's gotten away from him a little bit.'

• Huntington remains optimistic about signing top draft picks Gerrit Cole and Josh Bell but expects both situations will be in doubt right up to today's midnight deadline.

• Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf will be aligned in Indianapolis' rotation so he's able to make a spot start for the Pirates in a doubleheader against the Brewers on Aug. 22 at PNC Park.

• Huntington was evasive when asked whether outfielder Jose Tabata (strained quad) will be activated from the disabled list today. 'I can't rule it out, but I can't say it (will happen) with certainly, either,' he said. Huntington declined to specify how the outfield will look after Tabata and Alex Presley (hand) return. 'Those are two dynamic players that bring some versatility and depth,' he said. 'Clint will have interesting decisions to make.'

• Reliever Joe Beimel has been scored upon in four of his past six games. But Huntington said Beimel, who has been on the disabled list twice this year, is healthy. 'It just seems Joe is going through a tough stretch right now,' he said.

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