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Mark Melancon implodes as Pirates lose, 4-3

Jeffrey Phelps

Home runs by both Tony and Gaby Sanchez and dominating performances by Justin Wilson and Tony Watson went for naught as Mark Melancon imploded in the ninth, leading to a 4-3 Pirates loss.

Wandy Rodriguez returned from injury to start for the Pirates and was far better than he might have been, striking out four while walking one and allowing two runs, both on solo homers, in five innings. Rickie Weeks gave Rodriguez a huge break in the first. He doubled, then moved to third on a bunt single by Jean Segura. Then Weeks inexplicably stood at third base while Ryan Braun grounded into a double play, and got stranded when Jonathan Lucroy grounded out.

Weeks did, however, homer in the third to give the Brewers a 1-0 lead. In the fifth, the Pirates took a 2-1 lead when Jose Tabata hit a ground-ball single and Tony Sanchez hit an opposite-field homer, his first of the season. Martin Maldonado led off the bottom of the inning with a solo blast to tie the game at two, but Gaby Sanchez responded with a solo homer of his own to lead off the sixth.

After that, the Bucs' bullpen took over. Justin Wilson worked a fantastic eight-pitch sixth inning, then stayed in to bat in the seventh and shut the Brewers down again, striking out the side. Then in the eighth, Tony Watson struck out the first two batters he faced, giving the Pirates' relievers six straight strikeouts.

The dominance would not continue in the ninth, as Melancon struggled to throw strikes. After Ryan Braun's leadoff single, Melancon walked Lucroy and Mark Reynolds. The strike zone was inconsistent throughout the game, but several pitches Melancon needed to make weren't particularly close to the strike zone. Then Khris Davis singled up the middle to bring home two runs, as Melancon blew the lead and lost the game without recording a single out.

It was a shame, because there had been a lot to like about this game, beginning with Rodriguez's modestly promising performance. The Pirates will leave Miller Park with yet another series loss in Milwaukee.