Pirates offense struggles in 4-1 loss to Brewers
PITTSBURGH – Revamped lineup, same result for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates aren't hitting and they wasted another strong starting pitching performance Thursday.
Randy Wolf had 10 strikeouts and allowed only three hits in 6 2-3 shutout innings and the Milwaukee Brewers handed the Pirates their fourth consecutive loss, 4-1 Thursday.
Andrew McCutchen scored Pittsburgh's first run in 23 innings when he came home on a wild pitch after walking in the ninth.
"Hitting is contagious, and we need to get a couple guys hot," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We've got to get everybody involved to some degree. We just have some pieces not hot and not contributing right now. We haven't been able to connect the dots from the top to the bottom of the lineup."
Wolf (1-2) allowed only two singles, a double and two walks, and didn't allow a Pittsburgh runner to advance past second base as Milwaukee narrowly missed out on its second consecutive shutout and majors-best fourth in 12 games.
Pirates starter Paul Maholm allowed four of the first five batters to reach, but he retired 20 of his final 23. Maholm (0-2) gave up two runs — both in the first inning — and four hits and three walks with six strikeouts in seven innings.
"I would much rather have come out and put up a zero in the first and let our guys relax and not put us behind," Maholm said. "But you go out there and you try to make sure your team stays in the game. As soon as they got two, I just kind of said, 'That's it. You've got to get seven innings and keep them there and give the guys a chance.'"
He did that, but those two early runs proved too much of a deficit for the struggling Pirates to overcome — even with a new lineup Thursday. Pittsburgh came in with no runs and only four hits (all singles) in the previous 14 innings.
The streak of extra base hits would last until the sixth, when Neil Walker's deep fly to left bounced out of Ryan Braun's glove and was ruled a double.
Hurdle sat struggling third baseman Pedro Alvarez (.200, no home runs) in favor of Steve Pearce. He moved cleanup hitter Lyle Overbay (.238, one homer) down in the order and inserted platoon right fielder Matt Diaz into the No. 4 spot. Pittsburgh starting catcher Chris Snyder also made his season debut after being activated from the disabled list.
The result of the lineup shuffle was more of the same for an offense that ranks last in the NL in runs and entered the game 13th in batting average.
"We were not able to create the big inning, let alone chip away," Hurdle said.
"We've just got to find a way to push through it, play through it, hit through it."
Brewers starting pitchers have gone 6-1 with a 1.84 ERA over the past nine games.
"You feel like you want to contribute and help this team, and it feels good to finally to be able to do that," Wolf said.
"I think we've changed the mentality here about our idea of pitching and our pride about what we do on the mound."
Milwaukee has won its past seven April games at PNC Park by a combined score of 65-6, the past four by a combined score of 38-1.
In April games vs. the Pirates since 2005 overall, Milwaukee has won 19 of 21.
The Brewers have won four straight and seven of eight after starting 0-4.
"I feel a lot of positive energy in this clubhouse," Milwaukee catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "I feel good when I come in here. And I feel like that no one even remembers that start."
The Pirates managed four hits to fall to 1-5 on its opening homestand.
For the fifth time in six home games this season, Pittsburgh was behind before it even came to bat.
Prince Fielder entered the game 3 for 42 against Pirates starter Paul Maholm (0-2), but lined a single with two on and none out that drove in Rickie Weeks in the first. That was Fielder's NL-leading 15th RBI — all coming within his seven-game hitting streak. Two batters later, a Yuniesky Betancourt sacrifice fly scored Braun to make it 2-0.
"Everyone knows that Maholm gives me trouble, so to be able to get that hit and get that run was really, really key," Fielder said.
"Especially with Randy. He was locked in."
Wolf entered the game 8-3 lifetime against the Pirates, but in his most recent appearance against them he allowed career highs in runs (12) and hits (13) in 5 2-3 innings last July 21.
The outing marked the 14th time he had 10 or more strikeouts in a game.
The Brewers added two runs in the ninth off Joel Hanrahan.
Notes: Visiting teams have 12 first-inning runs in six games at PNC Park this season. ... Milwaukee is 48-17 vs. Pittsburgh since 2007. ... Pearce made his first major league start at third base. He made his first appearance there in his 141st career game on Saturday.