The Milwaukee Brewers were running on the Pirates on Tuesday, and there was nothing the team was able to do about it. Pittsburgh allowed their division rivals to swipe seven bases in the loss, three in the seventh inning alone. That seventh inning resulted in two runs from the Bucco bullpen, which gave the Brewers the eventual 6-0 win at PNC Park.
“It’s happened all season long,” catcher Rod Barajas said on the stolen bases. “The first half of the season, there weren’t too many complaints. We were able to make the pitches even if guys did steal bases. We made sure we had our focus on what we were supposed to do, the main objective, which was get the guy out [at the plate]. It’s not an easy thing to do. There’s a lot of scouting. There’s a lot of advanced work that goes into it.”
“We have some guys that like to throw off-speed pitches, who aren’t exactly fast to the plate. When you have that advantage as the opposing team, you’re going to take it. It’s something that wasn’t talked about a whole lot earlier in the season when we were playing well. Obviously we haven’t been winning so now it’s coming to the forefront.”
With the scouting out and the opposing teams aware of the Pirates numbers among caught stealings, the Brewers used their speed to their advantage. Those numbers have been bad this season. Barajas’ has caught just four out of 72 attempts this year. And they aren’t much better for Michael McKenry, who has caught just six of 43.
At the beginning of the season, those runners didn’t hurt the club. The pitching staff was leaving them stranded. In the first half, teams attempted a steal once every 10.23 innings. That’s compared to them attempting to steal once every 7.13 innings since the break. Manager Clint Hurdle said the focus was geared on the batter, versus the runner on the base paths. However, over the past several months, the teams have been running more frequently. And the overall execution hasn’t been the same.
“Earlier they were stealing on us, but we were making pitches so it didn’t matter,” starter A.J. Burnett said. “Obviously when they run on you like that and you give up a hit or two, or a walk, it makes it worse. If we’re going to let them steal, we just need to make pitches.”
“Obviously we’re just not executing pitches,” Barajas’ said. “When guys are stealing bases and you’re leaving them on base, that means you’re making pitches to get outs. If they do steal a base and you don’t make a pitch, now you’re putting yourself in a bad situation. You’re going to give up runs. For me, people can look at that and put the blame on that, on why that’s not playing well, then go ahead. I’ve played this game a long time. I understand this game. It’s important part of the game, but to sit there and say this is why is ridiculous.”
The Brewers lead the Majors in stolen bases this season with 142. Ryan Braun, who took three of his own on Tuesday, and Norichika Aoki, lead the team with 27 swipes a piece.
“Well No. 1 they have very good team speed,” Hurdle said. “They’ve really been able to pile on us on a couple different occasions…It can be the release times of your pitchers. It can be the fact that the complete package of the catchers release time, plus the pitchers release time doesn’t get you in a competitive place. We did have a couple missed assignments tonight that complicated matters.”
“We’ve just got to find a way to improve upon that. It’s been a season-long challenge. Our men have got to be able to take a step forward and do that in better fashion…If you don’t like them stealing bases, you get them out.”
Burnett Battles, But Pirates Unable to Give Him Run Support
A.J. Burnett battled against the Brewers in his 28th start of the season on Tuesday, holding Milwaukee to just two runs over his six frames. But the Pirates were only able to counter with two hits off starter Yovani Gallardo.
Burnett needed 27 pitches in the first inning, but the right-hander was able to work his way out of the jam. After Norichika Aoki was hit on the leg by a pitch, the outfielder swiped second and advanced to third on the wild pitch. With one out, Ryan Braun drew the second free pass of the inning, and he too, took second. But Burnett was able to get an infield pop out and a second punchout of the frame to end it.
He once again battled in the next frame. Burnett hit his second batter of the game, gave up a single to right, and his second walk loaded up the bases with no outs. This time, Burnett wasn’t able to escape the jam. Aoki ripped an RBI single to left field to plate the first run. The veteran was able to notch his fourth strikeout and a groundout to minimize the damage.
“It was a battle from the get-go,” Burnett said. “You can’t just cave in…I tried to limit the damage. But when you keep putting guys on base like that, they’re going to score a couple runs.”
Burnett was able to settle down and tossed two quick scoreless third and fourth innings. The veteran relied on his defense behind him and induced the second of three double plays turned to erase a leadoff single in the fifth. A call in the sixth, however, gave Burnett his second earned of the game.
“It was just one of those nights,” Burnett said. “You just try to stay in that one pitch mindset. Don’t let them know that anything’s wrong or good or bad. You just try and make that pitch. You’re always one pitch away. I was telling myself that. Eventually I’m going to get strike one. I still failed quite a bit at it. I just tried to get out of it.”
With a runner on first and one out, Carlos Gomez hit a grounder up the first base bag. Garrett Jones attempted to make a diving swipe to tag him out, but missed. Gomez attempted to avoid the tag by running out of the baseline before sliding into first base. First base umpire Brian O’Nora saw things differently as he called the runner safe. Manager Clint Hurdle came out to argue the call.
The call wound up hurting the Bucs, as Jean Segura lined a single to center field to plate Jonathon Lucroy. McCutchen’s throw from the outfield deflected off the glove of Rod Barajas at home, and scored the second and final run off Burnett.
“I think he fought a lot early,” Hurdle said. “51 pitches in two innings. He wrestled for two innings, and then he absolutely kept us in the ballgame. He gave us the chance to win the ballgame. He gave it everything he had. The three double plays were very beneficial for him. 43 to finish the next four, he continues to give a chance to win games that he starts.”
Overall, Burnett was charged with two runs on seven hits over six innings. He walked two and struck out four while throwing 94 pitches, 53 for strikes.
Hurdle Believes Marte Could Lead the League in Triples
Rookie Starling Marte has played in just 33 games at the big league level, but his speed on the base paths already has Manager Clint Hurdle believing that he one day could lead the league in triples. The comment came a day after Marte ripped his third triple in three straight games in Chicago. Marte became the first Pittsburgh player to do so since Andrew McCutchen accomplished the feat from June 19-21 his rookie season in 2009. Marte became just the third in franchise history. Only Bob Elliott in June of 1940 tripled in three straight games.
“[Down] the left field line, you don’t see that often,” Hurdle said of Marte’s triple on Monday. “But they were playing him really left center gap there throughout the series. He’s one of a handful of guys that can close that play. He saw the play right in front of him. The throw is out of his hand while he’s still in the process of getting to third. The closing speed just made it all happen with the headfirst slide. There very well could be a day when he leads the league in triples. We’ve seen three in three days. He doesn’t have to be in a perfect spot for him to get three bases.”
Rotation Not Set Past Milwaukee Series, But Correia Will Stay In
Manager Clint Hurdle hasn’t set the rotation past this three-game series against the Brewers. The club will head out on their final road trip of the season for three in Houston and four in New York before the regular season wraps up with a six-game set in Pittsburgh. After his two hit seven scoreless outing on Monday night in Milwaukee, Hurdle said that Kevin Correia will definitely be staying in.
“We’re not adjusting Kevin’s schedule,” Hurdle said. “He’s in the rotation. We’ll keep moving with him.”
Aside from A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez, Hurdle will have to decide if rookies Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson, who makes his first big league start on Wednesday, will remain in the rotation. Or if Jeff Karstens and James McDonald will be put back in.