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Postgame: Pirates' bullpen melts down in 9-8 loss

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Melancon blows save as velocity remains an issue

Mark Melancon's reduced cutter velocity and overall lack of sharpness caught up with him and the Pirates in a big way tonight. Sent in to preserve two-run lead in the ninth, the right-hander allowed three hits and a walk that led to three runs and a Cubs victory.

"Right now we're not seeing the crispness in the pitches that we've seen in his pitches [in past]," Clint Hurdle said. "There is a velocity drop. There is no injury. He's working through things."

Melancon did run into some misfortune, as only one of the hits was hit sharply. But, on the other side, one of the outs he gained came on a line drive hit directly at Jung-Ho Kang.

"Tough hops, but that's part of the game," Melancon said. "Any game like this is tough to take, so yeah, it's tough."

The right-hander denied feeling "out of sorts," and when asked about his drop in velocity he appeared to be unaware of it, or at least unconcerned.

"What is my drop in velocity?" Melancon asked.

"Two or three miles per hour," the reporter replied.

"Yeah, I don't pay attention to that, I'm worried about results."

Kang delivers big hit

Not to be lost in tonight's tough loss is perhaps the season's best moment to date.

Jung-Ho Kang came through with a bases-loaded, bases-clearing double to the right-center field wall to put the Pirates ahead 8-5 in the seventh. When Kang reached second he clapped his hands once, flashed whatever the new RBI celebration sign the team is using this year to the dugout and soaked in the roar of 13,680 previously frigid fans who were suddenly jolted to their feet.

"I felt like it was an opportunity to kind of prove myself and show why [I'm here]," Kang said. "[The fans' reaction] felt good."

Following the last out of the inning, Kang received a standing ovation as he returned to the dugout.

"The more games I play, the better feeling I have and the better understanding of the pitchers," Kang said. "Of course [playing more] helps."

McCutchen gets hit by more pitches

Andrew McCutchen was hit by two more pitches tonight, running his season total to four.

"I don't think they are trying to hit him," Hurdle said. "They're definitely trying to pitch him inside. We try to pitch guys inside. We hit guys. Nobody talks about that in here when we hit guys."

Hurdle added that you never like to see your marquee guy get hit, but he reminded the press that the Pirates have hit Anthony Rizzo twice.

"You just play the game hard and move on," Hurdle said.

Bullpen falters

Melancon wasn't the only member of the bullpen to have a rough night. Radhames Liz, Jared Hughes and Tony Watson each worked one inning of relief and allowed a run to score.

"They're human beings and you never like to see it happen, but you're going to have nights like that every now and then," Hurdle said.

The bullpen now has nine meltdowns 14 games into the season, the fifth most in the majors.

"They cannot be perfect," Francisco Cervelli said. "I believe we have one of the best bullpens in baseball and it's a long season. These guys are going to do an amazing job."