Pirates stumble into All-Star break
MILWAUKEE — No team in the majors needs the All-Star break more than the Pirates.
Corey Hart’s walk-off, two-run homer Sunday boosted the Milwaukee Brewers to a 6-5 victory. The Pirates wasted an early 3-0 lead and blew a one-run lead in the ninth inning.
“Guys battled and did everything they needed to do,” manager John Russell said. “There were a few mistakes late in the game from guys who don’t usually do that. I can’t really explain what’s going on.”
The Pirates have lost six in a row and go into the All-Star break with a 30-58 record — barely ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, whose 29-59 mark is the worst in the majors. At this point a year ago, the Pirates were 38-50.
“It’s been a tough journey so far, the way we’re losing games,” said rookie pitcher Brad Lincoln, who was robbed of a victory when the bullpen fell apart in the late innings. “We’ve been on the edge of winning so much, but we’re letting it slip away.”
The Pirates have four days off before beginning the second half of the season Friday night at PNC Park against the Houston Astros.
“I think we’ve been doing a good job,” said Lastings Milledge, who homered for the second game in a row. “We’re doing fine, fundamentally. We just haven’t been finishing it out.”
That was especially true yesterday for closer Octavio Dotel (2-2), who blew his fifth save in 24 chances.
Jim Edmonds began the winning rally with a pinch-hit double, which bounced over the center field wall. Dave Bush pinch-ran for Edmonds.
With one out, Dotel hung a slider and Hart, who before the game was named an All-Star starter, hit a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall. It was Hart’s second career walk-off homer.
“It’s a really bad feeling,” Dotel said. “We’re trying to get out of this bad (stretch). We’re trying hard, but things aren’t going our way. It’s frustrating.”
In the second inning, the Pirates collected four straight hits off lefty Randy Wolf to take a 3-0 lead. It was only their third multi-run inning out of 54 total innings on the six-game road trip.
With one out, Milledge homered to center field, marking the second time in his career that he’s has gone deep in back-to-back games.
Ryan Doumit singled. Ronny Cedeno singled, moving Doumit to third. Lincoln bounced a single into right, scoring Doumit. Cedeno came home on Andrew McCutchen’s sacrifice fly.
The Brewers tied the game, 3-3, in the fourth on solo homers by Ryan Braun and George Kottaras. In the sixth the Pirates went back on top, 4-3, when Pedro Alvarez whacked a knee-high fastball high over the center field wall for his third homer.
Reliever Joel Hanrahan was unable to hold the lead in the eighth.
Ryan Braun led off with a single, and Prince Fielder walked. Hanrahan struck out Casey McGehee on a pitch in the dirt and got Kottaras to fly out. But Carlos Gomez connected on an 0-2 slider and slapped an RBI single into shallow right field.
“I went to the well one too many times,” Hanrahan said. “If I throw it in the dirt, he probably swings and misses it.”
McCutchen’s sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth gave the Pirates a 5-4 lead.
Cedeno began the inning with a bunt single off closer John Axford (5-1). Delwyn Young lined a pinch-hit single to left field, moving Cedeno to third.
McCutchen flied out to right field. The ball was shallow enough for Hart to make a throw, but catcher Kotteras got the ball on the bounce a couple of feet in front of the plate as Cedeno slid in safely.