Reigning National League MVP Ryan Braun continued to haunt the Pittsburgh Pirates, going 4-for-4 Friday night with a pair of home runs, but this game came down to one swing of the bat….. off the bat of Cody Ransom.
Ransom, after the Tony Watson intentionally walked Rickie Weeks to get to him, crushed a tie-breaking grand slam with two-outs and two-strikes in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Milwaukee Brewers a 10-7, starting the second half of the season on a sour note for the Bucs.
To say this was a tough loss would be an understaement.
While Braun and Ransom were big for the Brewers, the story of the night was the struggles of the Pirates pitchers, most notably James McDonald, who struggled big time.
J-Mac was all over the place from the first pitch on, lasting only 4.2 innings, giving up eight hits and five runs (four earned). In addition McDonald walked fiver batters, striking out only two.
It didn’t get much better for the bullpen.
Jared Hughes surrendered a run scoring single. Brad Lincoln allowed a homer to Braun and watson gave up three hits including the grand slam to Ransom.
The Brewers scored three in the first on a Braun homer and a two-run double by Weeks, but the Bucs would battle back, which has become their staple.
They cut it to 3-1 in the third when Weeks misplayed a grounder hit by Garrett Jones with the bases loaded, but left the bases loaded when Casey McGehee grounded out weakly to first. Then in the fourth, Drew Sutton cut it to 3-2 with an RBI double and then Neil walker put the Bucs up 5-3 with a three-run bomb.
Braun cut the Pirates lead to 5-4 with an RBI single in the fourth but the Bucs got that run back in the fifth when Pedro Alvarez crushed a solo shot to right.
But pinch hitter Travis Ishikawa made it 6-5 in the fifth with a single off of Hughes and Braun tattooed a Lincoln offering in the sixth to tie it at six.
The Bucs had a chance in the eighth getting the lead-off runner on base, but shortstop Clint Barmes failed on two opportunities to get a bunt down, a huge problem for the Pirates. A few pitches later, Gorkys Hernandez was picked off, ending all hopes of a rally.
Then Clint Hurdle turned to his only lefty in the pen- Watson.
Yet the Brewers sent seven consecutive right hand hitters to the plate in the inning. Not only did Hurdle turn to Watson in a tie game, he did so with fresh arms such as Jason Grilli, Chris Resop and Juan Cruz still in the Pirates pen.
Obviously Hurdle was thinking….. I don’t know what the hell he was thinking (couldn’t resist).
This was a head scratcher, one I didn’t agree with from the start.
After getting Carlos Gomez, who pinch hit for Nyjer Morgan, to pop out, Watson allowed back-to-back singles to Braun and Aramis Ramirez. Watson rebounded to strike out Corey Hart, but both runners were running on the pitch and stole without a throw.
Hurdle then elected to intentionally walk Weeks, which I don’t disagree with. But it forces your pitcher to throw strikes and Watson grooved a fastball to Ransom on a 2-2 pitch and he hit a no-doubter. Before the grand slam he was 0-for-4 on the night.
The Bucs bats didn’t disappoint and pounded out 10 hits on the night, one of which was an Andrew McCutchen solo shot in the ninth. But with the tying run in the on-deck circle in the form of Alvarez, McGehee struck out for the fourth time in the game, looking at strike three from John Axford.
The loss sends the Bucs back into a tie for first place in the National League Central as the Cincinnati Reds defeated the St. Louis Cardinals.
This was a tough one to take and hopefully the Bucs bounce back Saturday. You don’t want to start the second half on a down note and that’s what the Bucs are in danger of seeing happen.
Winning Pitcher: Francisco Rodriguez (2-4)
Losing Pitcher: Tony Watson (4-1)
MVP: Ryan Braun: 4-for-4, 3 runs, 2 HR, 3 RBI, SB
LVP: Casey McGehee: 0-for-5, 4 K
Play of the Game: Ransom grand slam in eighth
Home Runs: McCutchen (19), Alvarez (17), Walker (7), Braun (25, 26), Ransom (8)
Up Next: at Milwaukee, Saturday, July 14 at 7:10 p.m. EDT
Probable Starters: Kevin Correia (5-6, 4.34 ERA) vs. Marco Estrada (0-3, 4.06)