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James McDonald, bullpen come apart in 12-8 loss

Mike McGinnis

What a ridiculous game. James McDonald was wretched, and it's surprising the Pirates stuck with him for five innings. Clint Hurdle preemptively pulled Jonathan Sanchez the other day, yanking him well before he allowed the customary seven or eight runs, and I thought today was a good spot to do that to McDonald, perhaps after the second inning, or maybe the third.

After the fourth, when Jonathan Lucroy hit an RBI double and Ryan Braun brought home two runs with a single, the Pirates were down 7-3. It's a testament to this team that a lead like that doesn't feel insurmountable, and sure enough, it wasn't. Russell Martin and Andrew McCutchen hit back-to-back homers in the fifth to make it 7-5. Then, in the sixth, Brandon Inge and Clint Barmes singled. Jose Tabata hit into what appeared to be a double play, but the first-base umpire blew the call, and Tabata was safe. Then Starling Marte hit a three-run bomb to take an 8-7 lead.

Unfortunately, this is Milwaukee, and the Pirates can't have nice things in Milwaukee, and so the Shark Tank proceeded to eat itself. Vin Mazzaro relieved McDonald after that and allowed a Jean Segura homer on his first pitch. (Mazzaro put on two more batters after that, but Gaby Sanchez shut down the Brewers' rally with a great catch on a line drive.) Then in the seventh, Bryan Morris allowed a solo shot by Yuniesky Betancourt. Then in the eighth, Tony Watson allowed a single, a walk, and a three-run shot by Rickie Weeks.

Andrew McCutchen had four hits, and the Pirates' offense would get a huge boost if he could have more big games like this, but the big story obviously is McDonald yet again. Even in his better starts this year, he hasn't really looked like vintage JMac, and this game was only a couple notches above his disaster start against the Cardinals a couple weeks back.