Yesterday it was announced that Joe Musgrove was being shut down and that Nick Kingham, who hadn’t pitched in two weeks, would replace him in the rotation. Unfortunately, Kingham only lasted 15 batters into the game, coughing up the first of two Milwaukee five spots of the game.
Besides yet another Adam Frazier home run, the most memorable moments would end up being in the top of the eighth inning when with one and then two outs, in turn both Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer, veteran players due to leave after the season as free agents, were replaced on defense, giving each man a chance to tip the home crowd for the last time as they headed for a gauntlet of hugs in the dugout.
Kingham had nothing, loading the bases on three singles in the first before hitting Mike Moustakas to force in the Brewers first run. They piled on in the second as Orlando Arcia led off driving a ball to the farthest fence in the Northside Notch which a young fan niftly grabbed on the fly, but which a review confirmed was in the field of play to give Arcia a double. Two batters after walking pitcher Wade Miley who was attempting to bunt, Christian Yelich slammed a pitch 109.5 mph, landing 439 feet away at the back fence of the right-center seats for his 32nd homer of the year. Two batters after that, another lefty swinger Travis Shaw tried to keep pace, as he drove his 31st long ball 109.7 mph into the river on a bounce, although only 425 feet on the fly. Still, it a took a single and a walk to the next two batters before Kingham hit the showers.
Tanner Anderson actually managed 3 2⁄3 innings with only one run allowed, but things went totally down the drain for the Pirates in the sixth. With several left-handed batters due up, Steven Brault entered and made quick work of Yelich who was called out on strikes. Lorenzo Cain singled and then Brault walked both Shaw and Jesus Aguilar to load the bases. After getting the lefty Moustakas swinging at strike three, Michael Feliz was summoned into a two-out, bases loaded situation, trailing 7-4, to face the right-handed pinch-hitter Ryan Braun - and the fans were presented with weird baseball before midnight. Braun walked on four pitches to force in a run. Arcia took all five pitches to him, four balls, to force yet another. Pinch-hitter Eric Thames actually swung at the first pitch he saw, but the second bounced in front of catcher Elias Diaz and deflected towards the first base dugout. Aguilar scored easily from third, and seeing Diaz loaf for the ball, Braun sprinted around third and scored standing up, but then Diaz return throw sailed past the pitcher Feliz who was covering home, allowing Arcia to score the third run on one wild pitch (even of the third scored on the error)
The Pirates only had hits in two different innings. Retired in order in the first four innings, they broke through against Miley in the fifth as Elias Diaz walked and Jordan Luplow singled to center to break up the no-hitter. Jose Osuna reached on an error by third baseman Moustakas to load the bases before Harrison drove a ball to deep center for a two-run double and Mercer followed on the next pitch with another two-run double off the wall in right. Just when it looked like they might crawl back into the game, former closer Corey Knebel enter and struck out Ryan Lavarnway, Pablo Reyes and Kevin Kramer in succession to end the threat.
Pittsburgh went down in order again in the sixth and seventh, having been retired in nine straight trips to the plate before Colin Moran was hit by a pitch to open the eighth, but the next three batter went out quietly. After two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Osuna lined a single to center and Frazier, who had come in to replace Harrison the inning before, smashed his 10th homer into the right field seats to kill the rally.
After the game both Harrison and Mercer were interviewed on the field, reminiscing on their friendship which began in Class A in 2009 and continued in their shared seven seasons in a Pirates uniform. Mercer will be a free agent and it’s now apparently very unlikely that the team will pick up the option for one more year with Harrison.
The Pirates now head to Chicago for a four-game series with the Cubs, in which the Brewers desperately need the Pirates to do well in order for them to challenge the Cubs for the divisional title in the last week of the season.
The first game at Wrigley will be at 8:05 pm Eastern on Monday as the Pirates Jameson Taillon (13-9, 3.24), who has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his last 20 starts, faces lefty Cole Hamels (9-10, 3.41) who has a 2.42 ERA in 10 starts with the Cubs since being acquired from Texas in June.