All that separates the Pittsburgh Pirates from the end of regular season play is 10 games. And those 10 games are against teams that currently project as playoff teams — the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs concluding the home portion of the regular season-schedule and the St. Louis Cardinals on the road.
So it would have been nice to get ‘W’ against a team that’s 69-84. But the Pirates couldn’t secure a second consecutive road sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers, with Pittsburgh falling 3-1 Thursday night.
This defeat has the Pirates at an even 76-76 on the season.
Starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong (3-6) has now stretched his winless streak to five.
His big miscue occurred in the first inning when he walked leadoff batter Jonathan Villar. While Villar stole his 58th base of the season, it ended up not mattering because Scooter Gennett hit a 1-1 pitch over the left-center field wall for his 14th home run of the season.
And even though Vogelsong struck out Ryan Braun, Chris Carter and Domingo Santana in succession, those two runs proved to be enough to win the game.
The Pirates were kept off the board until the fifth inning and were able to avoid a getting shutout with power from an unlikely source: Francisco Cervelli.
Cervelli hadn’t homered all season, but with Brewers starter Chase Anderson (9-11) getting two quick outs to open the fifth inning, the Pirates catcher received an 0-1 pitch down the middle of the plate that he punished over the right field wall.
Teammates gave Cervelli the silent treatment in the dugout but embraced him shortly after.
The game’s final run belonged to the Brewers, who added a run on a deep Chris Carter solo home run in the seventh inning. It was Carter’s 37th homer of the season.
In addition to the loss, the bad news continued for the Pirates.
Left fielder Starling Marte, who returned Wednesday from back spasms, was removed from Thursday’s game during a third-inning at-bat. Marte felt pain fouling off a ball and left the game with back tightness. He was replaced by Matt Joyce.
The Pirates’ final seven-game regular-season homestand begins Friday night when Jameson Taillon (4-4, 3.39 ERA) faces the Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez (11-10, 4.48 ERA).
Andrew McCutchen went 2-for-4, extending his season-hit streak to 10 games. Sean Rodriguez saw his 10-game hitting streak end after an 0-for-4 night at the plate, which included a strikeout looking for the final out of the game. This streak tied for the second highest in Rodriguez’s career.
Image credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images