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Late-inning weirdness leads to 3-2 Pirates loss

Mike McGinnis

The Pirates lost a frustrating 3-2 game against the Brewers Saturday night that featured strange late-inning mistakes by both teams.

Edinson Volquez allowed a leadoff homer to Carlos Gomez in the first but otherwise pitched well, giving up his only other run on a wild pitch in the second. He struck out four over six innings.

The Pirates' offense, meanwhile, tied the game in the third. Travis Ishikawa led off with a double, then moved to third on Jordy Mercer's single. Starling Marte brought home a run on a grounder, and then Travis Snider brought home another with a line-drive single. (Later in the game, John Wehner compared Snider's swing to Brian Giles'. On Twitter, I unfairly made fun of Wehner for that, but there's no doubt that Snider's swing looks simpler this year, and he's making more solid contact. We'll see what that means, if anything, as the season continues.)

The game stayed at 2-2 until the late innings, when neither team seemed to want to win. In the seventh, Khris Davis reached when Andrew McCutchen dropped a fly ball in the outfield. Mark Reynolds then walked, and both runners moved up on Scooter Gennett's sacrifice. Rickie Weeks then hit a ball to the outfield, but Davis for some reason didn't tag, and both runners ended up stranded.

The Pirates would return the favor in the eighth. Starling Marte singled with one out and then moved to third on a single by Snider. McCutchen then hit a pop-up just behind home plate. Jonathan Lucroy caught it, and Snider broke for second. After Lucroy threw, Marte broke for home, then got thrown out by Jean Segura. Too clever by half, Pirates.

Mark Melancon then entered and gave up consecutive singles to Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez and Lucroy, giving the Brewers a 3-2 lead, with Jose Tabata's throw to get Braun coming in a few feet off the mark. Pedro Alvarez led off the ninth with a walk, but Russell Martin grounded into a double play (that Gennett nearly blew, almost pulling Reynolds off the bag with his throw). Neil Walker then grounded out to end it.

The balance of power in the bullpen seems to have begun shifting late last year, and it's continuing now. Melancon doesn't appear as dominant as he did last year, and Jason Grilli doesn't either. Meanwhile, Tony Watson (who pitched well in two-thirds of an inning tonight) looks great, and so does Bryan Morris. This will all sort itself out in the coming weeks, but the idea that Bryan Morris looks like a better pitcher than Mark Melancon right now would have been just about unthinkable last summer. But Melancon's velocity is a bit off and he looks hittable, so it appears that's where we are, at least for the time being.