Pirates Notebook: Home Runs Hurt McDonald; Holt Gets First Major League Start

Miller Park is a hitter friendly ballpark, and the ball was flying out of it on Sunday afternoon. There were a total of eight home runs combined between the two teams, four of them from the Milwaukee Brewers chased James McDonald from the game in just the third inning.

McDonald was impressive his last trip to the mound, in which has been a very inconsistent second half for the right-hander. McDonald allowed just two runs over seven innings and looked to get back on track. He cruised through his first inning against St. Louis, which has been troublesome for him this season, and was looking to do the same today against the Brewers.

Milwaukee, however, had another plan in mind.

McDonald entered game action posting a 6.92 ERA in the first frame, and just a 2.91 ERA from the second inning on. For McDonald to get back on track, the first inning is a bit more important for him to battle through. Unfortunately on Sunday, the right-hander wasn’t able to put up a zero.

Norichika Aoki drew a four pitch leadoff walk to start the bottom of the first. His next batter hit a grounder to third base, but Pedro Alvarez bobbled the ball for an error. It proved to be costly as Ryan Braun launched a first pitch fastball for a three-run shot to left field to quickly give the Brewers the lead. McDonald has now allowed nine long balls in the first inning. He was able to settle down and struck out the side.

But the homers continued to hurt McDonald. Of the four hits that McDonald allowed over his first two, three of them had been from the long ball.

In the second, McDonald recorded his fourth straight punchout, but then gave  up his second homer in as many innings after hanging a 2-1 pitch to Jeff Bianchi, who went deep to center field. After notching a fifth strikeout, McDonald fell behind 2-0 to Rickie Weeks, and he went deep to center field for a two-run shot and the third of McDonald’s outing. The right-hander got his sixth whiff to Braun — this time looking to end the frame.

McDonald went back out for the third inning, but a fourth and final home run ended his outing early. Manager Clint Hurdle called upon Chris Leroux from the bullpen to notch the final out. Overall, McDonald was charged with seven earned runs on six hits over 2.2 frames. He walked one and struck out six. The eight runs allowed were the most from McDonald this season. He’s posted 7.14 ERA since the All-Star Break.

The Pirates attempted to rally back against Milwaukee putting up eight runs on the day. The club was able to pound out three long balls of their own.

In the second, Michael McKenry took an 0-2 curve and deposited it into the sets in left field for a leadoff home run. It marked McKenry’s 12th long ball of the season.  Gaby Sanchez was the next, his coming on an 0-1 fastball, his second since being acquired from Miami. Garrett Jones launched the third for the club, his 23rd on the season, in the sixth.

The Pirates have hit 16 home runs in nine games this year at Miller Park, which is the most by any visiting team.


Injury Updates

— Starling Marte (right oblique) could possible start a brief rehab assignment on Wednesday. The rookie outfielder has ramped up his baseball activities and shagged fly balls during batting practice on Saturday. Marte will attempt to run the bases on Tuesday, and if all goes well could head out on a rehab assignment Wednesday with Triple-A.

— Chad Qualls (big toe) left the club on Sunday and will begin his rehab assignment with Triple-A on Monday.

— Neil Walker (low back) was reportedly having his best day so far today, Manager Clint Hurdle said. He has not yet been cleared for baseball activities, but has said to be very encouraged.


Several Septemeber Callups Make Debuts

— Brock Holt, who was called  up from the big leagues yesterday, was in the lineup today for his very first big league start. The infielder walked on four pitches in his first plate appearance and scored the teams game tying run on Saturday. Holt was able to pick up a couple hits in his first start at second base, batting leadoff on Sunday.

After striking out looking in his first at-bat, and flying out to right center field in his second, Holt connected for a single into center field for his first big league hit in the fourth inning. The rookie was able to pick up his first big league RBI as well, with a two-out single up the middle in the sixth to drive in Michael McKenry.

Holt also flashed the leather at second base, making an over the shoulder diving catch into shallow right field to end the eighth frame.

— Chris Leroux made his season debut with Pittsburgh in the third inning following James McDonald after spending most of the season on the disabled list due to a right pectoral strain he suffered during spring training. Leroux put up solid numbers while with Triple-A both starting and relieving, but that success didn’t translate in Miller Park on Sunday.

Leroux allowed three runs on three hits over 1.1 frames. The right-hander walked one and struck out one, while dishing up a long ball to pitcher Yovani Gallardo in the fourth.

— Justin Wilson made his second big league outing on Sunday, his first since being recalled from Triple-A yesterday. Wilson was able to put up a zero in the fifth, but three straight hits and a run in his second inning of work chased him from the game. Chris Resop was able to retire all three batters in the frame, with Wilson only being charged with one run over 1+ frames. It marked the first big league run earned from the left-hander.

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This was the second loss when they score 8 or more runs. The other loss was 8/10 to the Padres.

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