Batman returned, but his presence wasn't enough to prevent the Brewers from beating the Pirates for the seventh straight game, 6-4.
When the story of this season's division race is finally written, it could well be the frustrating losses to the Brewers that prove most consequential. With a golden opportunity to pick up a precious game on the front-running Cardinals, the Pirates missed scoring chances, ran into outs and then ran out of relievers. Playing short-handed out of the bullpen with both Mark Melancon and Tony Watson unavailable, Radhames Liz was left to pitch the 12th and 13th and was dinged for three runs in two innings work to take the loss.
"Every loss sucks, no matter who it is or where we are in the standings." Andrew McCutchen said, when asked about the sting of tonight's loss. "We don't like losing, especially when it's a game that you felt like you should have won."
Josh Harrison echoed McCutchen's sentiments, saying that he doesn't believe "one loss is worse than another."
While the players are taking the attitude you'd expect, it's hard not to see this one as particularly difficult loss to swallow.
A.J. Burnett's night began with a loud ovation from the fans behind the Pirates dugout following his pregame warmups but it soon turned rocky. Khris Davis capped a three-run first inning outburst with a no-doubt home run over the bushes in center field.
"I just threw balls down the middle [in the first]," Burnett said. "I'm too old to be amped up over a start. I should be ready for it. There's no [excuses], none of that crap. I was throwing pitches down the middle and they did what big-league hitters are supposed to do to them."
The right-hander showed flashes of his All-Star form after the first. Burnett induced weak contact and quick outs over the next four innings.
"That's about the only positive I can take from it [is] the way I finished up," Burnett said. "I don't buy into that ‘you're rusty' or ‘first inning jitters.'"
Burnett yielded three runs and three hits in five innings. He walked two and struck out three.
"I felt good," Burnett said. "Obviously, with runners in scoring position so you want to get a guy up there that can score some runs. But, yeah, I felt fine."
The Pirates now have six starters with his return and how the rotation will be managed is unknown. But Burnett fully expects to remain a part of it.
"Am I being sent down already?" Burnett joked. "I hope I'm pitching in five, six days. I got a bullpen in couple days and a regular start."
In recognition of Burnett's return to the mound, three buildings in downtown Pittsburgh lit-up with teal-colored "Bat-signals" as soon as the sun went down. On a pleasantly cool and clear night, the laser images shone brilliantly against the usual medley of colors that shine down on PNC Park.
"That's pretty cool, man," Burnett said. "That's by far the coolest thing that happened in my career. I'd much rather have a W on a night like tonight, but the people the city and everybody behind that a big thank you because that was incredible."
Bucs offense chips away but misses too many opportunities
The Pirates chipped away at the Brewers' early three-run lead by scoring once in the fifth and the seventh, but the damage could have and probably should have been more. Francisco Cervelli was picked off second to end the fifth and the Pirates only managed one run with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh.
Two game-tying solo home runs -- one by Andrew McCutchen in the eighth and another by Gregory Polanco in the 12th -- extended the game. But, ulitmately, it was a lack of timely hits with men on base (0-for-6 with RISP) and three outs given away on the base paths that did the Pirates in.
Starling Marte was removed before the 10th inning due to "left shoulder discomfort" stemming from being hit by a pitch in the eighth.
"We don't know," Hurdle said of Marte's condition. "It was painful enough that he had to come out of the game. So we'll just have to monitor him and see how he feels tomorrow."