Francisco Liriano struggles, Pirates botch opportunities in 9-3 win

Mike McGinnis

The Pirates' 82nd win will have to wait after a 9-3 loss to the Brewers Wednesday night.

Francisco Liriano wasn't nearly his best -- his fastball wasn't moving much, and he kept his slider too high. And he paid for it, giving up a two-run bomb on a center-center fastball to Khris Davis in the second, then allowing five runs in a mess of a third inning that featured two straight wild pitches.

The Pirates wasted a chance to get back in the game in a bizarre fifth inning. Andrew McCutchen led off with a homer to left center to make it 7-3. It looked like McCutchen lost it in the lights, and Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta misinterpreted that as McCutchen admiring his shot. So he retaliated (at least I assume he retaliated -- I'm assuming a fair amount about his motivations here) by hitting Justin Morneau. That led to a strange scene where the Pirates' bench and then its bullpen came out onto the field very, very slowly, looking more like a bunch of zombies than a team prepared to fight.

The moment passed without incident, but then Marlon Byrd, as he does, doubled to center. Nick Leyva inexplicably sent Morneau -- again, with no outs, and with the Pirates down 7-3 -- to home. Morneau could hardly move faster than the Pirates did in their bench-clearing zombie walk, and the Brewers gunned him down easily. The inning ended two batters later without the Bucs picking up any more runs. Whoops!

Then, in the seventh, the Bucs blew another good opportunity. Neil Walker led off with a double off our old friend Mike Gonzalez, and Andrew McCutchen walked. Then Clint Hurdle left Morneau out there to face the lefty Gonzalez, and Morneau looked about as bad as you might expect. One of the nice things about having Morneau was supposed to be that the Pirates now have the depth to turn to platoon options in situations like that, epecially with expanded rosters, but in this case, they didn't. Then Byrd lined out against righty Donovan Hand, and Pedro Alvarez got hit by a pitch. Then Hurdle left the righty Buck out there to face Hand, which, again ... why?!

Anyway, not to put to fine a point on any of this. With this year's team, it feels like you never really know when the Pirates might get back in a game. But we've probably been spoiled to a degree, and the Pirates were a long shot to tie the game in both innings. Obviously, Liriano pitching poorly was the biggest problem. But this was still an odd game for the Pirates' coaching staff.

Stolmy Pimentel made his big-league debut pitching the sixth and part of the seventh and looked like he wasn't ready. He struck out the first batter he faced, Juan Francisco, but that's only because Francisco has less discipline than a four-year-old in a Starburst factory. Other than that, he threw 96 MPH but without any real idea where it was going, and he gave up two runs. In a bit of good news, Jason Grilli pitched a scoreless eighth, getting two whiffs.

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