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So close and yet so far away as Pirates fall 2-1 in Milwaukee

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Milwaukee Brewers
Eric Thames
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates threw the ball around while the Brewers tracked down balls in the gap. Pirates’ pitchers issued seven walks while the defense committed four errors, but still the Brewers scored only two while stranding thirteen in a close fought 2-1 Milwaukee victory at Miller Field on Sunday afternoon.

Brewers’ starter Zach Davies, who had been struggling in recent starts, appeared to be on track for more of the same when with two outs in the first Starling Marte singled and Josh Bell walked before Melky Cabrera lined the first pitch off the fence in right field for a double, scoring Marte with the first run of the game. Colin Moran then battled to a 3-2 count before driving the ball deep into the gap in left, only to have it tracked down on the run by center fielder Lorenzo Cain, saving two runs.

That was the last time the Pirates threatened off Davies, who worked into the sixth inning.

The Pirates starter Steven Brault, for several years switching between a left-handed reliever and at best a number four starter, continued the best streak of starts in his career. With a 2.03 ERA over his previous five starts, Brault put runners on base but nursed a 1-0 lead until the fourth when with two out the pitcher Davies lined a hard single to center, the throw home from center fielder Marte just barely late in an attempt to nab Mike Moustakas, who’d led off the inning with a double.

Richard Rodriguez replaced Brault with two on and two out in the fifth but worked out of the jam, but found himself in the middle of another in the sixth inning. After a single, walk and infield single loaded the bases with two outs, veteran left-hander Francisco Liriano was called on to face the reigning National League Most Valuable Player Christian Yelich. Feeding the left-handed batter a steady diet of sliders, Liriano saw the count run full before Yelich waved at strike three.

Still tied in the eighth, Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle called on Kyle Crick, but Pirate Killer Eric Thames put the second pitch of the inning over the fence in dead center field, 432 feet from home plate, for his 12th homer of the season. Three walks later, Crick got Tyler Saladino swinging to end the inning.

Pirate fans held on to hope in the ninth as All-World closer Josh Hader was not available, as instead Brewers’ manager Craig Counsell decided on veteran Matt Albers to protect a one-run lead. Starling Marte led off with an infield single, but never advanced as Josh Bell popped up to right field and pinch-hitter Jose Osuna tapped into a ready made double play.

Kevin Newman’s 19 game hitting streak came to an end as he went 0-for-4. Newman is batting 327/372/482 in the season.

Late in the game it was announced the first baseman Josh Bell had been named to the All-Star game. He will be the only Pirates representative.

Milwaukee’s win puts them in a tie for first place with the Chicago Cubs, while the Pirates are still in fourth place, 5.0 games back and just a half game ahead of the cellar dwelling Cincinnati Reds.

Ending their road trip to Houston and Milwaukee with three win and three losses, the Pirates head back to Pittsburgh to open a four games series against the Cubs. The first game is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. on Monday, as the Cubs send rookie right-hander Adbert Alzolay against the Pirates’ Trevor Williams (2-2, 4.25)