MILWAUKEE -- The Pirates’ offense surely had to cool off at some point after being red hot for much of June. The Brewers pitching staff was the equivalent of a fire extinguisher throughout the weekend.
The Pirates were held to just five runs in dropping two of three games in their series with the Brewers at Miller Park. They managed only a single run for a second day in a row Sunday as the Brewers eked out a 2-1 win on Eric Thames’ eighth-inning home run off Kyle Crick.
The Pirates finished June with a lackluster 11-15 record but averaged 5.5 runs a game and had a .288 batting average. They also scored 14 and 10 runs in wins against the American League West-leading Astros on Wednesday and Thursday in Houston before coming to Milwaukee.
Just like Saturday, the Pirates scored one run in the first inning and that was all.
“I feel like they were following their scouting reports really well,” said Josh Bell, who was selected to the All-Star Game for the first time Sunday. “Today was a day when (Zach) Davies and the rest of their bullpen arms really commanded their attack plan. They made pitches in big spots. Sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap to the other guys. They pitched us tough.”
Melky Cabrera hit an RBI double with two outs in the first and the Pirates seemed primed for more when Colin Moran hit a shot into the left-center field gap with runners on second and third. However, center fielder Lorenzo Cain made a great catch to end the inning and the Pirates (39-43) never got another runner into scoring position as they lost back-to-back games for the first time since June 12-13.
Davies pitched 5 1/3 innings and three relievers combined for 3 2/3 shutout innings with Jeremy Jeffress (2-2) getting the win and Matt Albers recording his first save of the season. Davies also drove in the Brewers’ first run with a flare single in the fourth inning.
Brandon Woodruff pitched 7 2/3 innings Saturday night to beat the Pirates.
“They’re more than a hitting team,” Clint Hurdle said of the Brewers. “(Woodruff) has 10 wins and Davies came in with seven wins. Combined, they’re 17-4. So, you have two starters who can pitch a little bit and their bullpen has done a nice job all year of pitching in different roles. They did a nice job today. They executed pitches and kept us off balance. They definitely kept us off the barrel.”
Thames proved to be the Pirates’ nemesis again, leading off the eighth with a 432-foot shot off the batter’s eye in center field on a sinker by Crick (3-4) to break a 1-1 tie. Thames is 12 for 26 (.462) with five homers against the Pirates this season.
“He’s hit pitches in spots where we really don’t want to go into,” Hurdle said. “He’s got some hot spots and he’s got some spots where he can be pitched to, but we haven’t been able to get to those spots.”
The homer spoiled an otherwise good performance by the pitching staff, which allowed just seven runs in the series. Steven Brault started Sunday and was nicked for just one run in 4 2/3 innings, despite allowing five hits and three walks.
The Pirates also made four errors but were helped by the Brewers stranding 13 runners.
“I thought he was competitive but not as efficient (with his pitches) as we would have liked,” Hurdle said. “But he kept them off the plate, so there was a real fight and pitchability there. I thought Steven did a really good job of navigating their lineup and keep them from scoring.”
Brault was pleased with his outing other than needing 97 pitches to get 14 outs, which meant the bullpen had to cover 3 2/3 innings.
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