August 24, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) leaps to avoid sliding Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks (23) after Walker threw to first to complete a double play during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Look at the header for this post! Look how ironic it is! Bask in how ridiculous it feels! The Pirates appear to be coming apart before our eyes. They're finding all kinds of ways to lose, but the one they found today is, for the most part, a common one -- the Bucs got themselves in an early hole, and then let the opposing starting pitcher (Michael Fiers, in this case) walk all over them.
Okay, it wasn't totally boilerplate. Wandy Rodriguez didn't give up any runs in the first inning, for example. But in the second, he allowed a leadoff single to Aramis Ramirez, then a double by Corey Hart. Hart then advanced to third on a terrible throw by Clint Barmes, then came home himself on Jonathan Lucroy's single.
The Pirates tied the game in the fourth on a much-needed two-run single by Andrew McCutchen, and it stayed that way until the seventh, which was a disaster. Fiers bunted the ball down the line and the Pirates let it go, but it stayed fair, so he wounded up with a single. Jared Hughes then came on with two outs and promptly hit a batter and walked another, then allowed a bases-clearing double on a long fly ball by Ramirez. I'm not really sure why the Pirates left Hughes out there to give up the double. (McCutchen appeared to hurt his knee while fielding on the play, and there was a tense moment there as it looked possible that the Pirates' playoff chances might disappear almost completely, but he stayed in the game.) Hart's RBI single then put the Brewers up 6-2.
Rod Barajas hit a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh, but I have to admit that I was a little checked out at that point, particularly after Chad Qualls entered in the eighth, and my attention turned to "Gangnam Style," which isn't at all relevant here, except in that it came up in the gamethread, but ... oh what the heck.
Look at this thing! Who wants to argue that Chad Qualls pitching in the eighth inning down 6-3 is more entertaining? It's Friday night, people!
Wait, where were we? Actually, it turns out this one wasn't quite over. Qualls and Joel Hanrahan pitched scoreless innings, and in the ninth, John Axford promptly walked his first two batters, then allowed an RBI single to Neil Walker, bringing the winning run to the plate. Unfortunately, Pedro Alvarez and Jeff Clement looked like they'd never seen a 96-MPH fastball before (it's a good pitch, to be fair), and Axford got both to strike out. Michael McKenry's single brought in another run to make it 6-5, and the Brewers finally brought in Kameron Loe, who whiffed Gaby Sanchez to end the game. The Pirates lost for the fourth straight time, falling further behind the Cardinals for the second wild card spot.