For so long everything looked so good.
Jung-ho Kang, freshly back from a stint on the injured list and looking nimble in his first start at shortstop in four years, followed a second inning walk to Gregory Polanco with a 457 foot monster dive off Miller Park’s center field scoreboard to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Steven Brault came out firing fastballs and finding the strike zone, carrying that 2-0 lead into the sixth when Christian Yelich dropped his 24th homer into the right field bullpen, just over the reach of the leaping Polanco.
Brault quickly finished up that inning and went to the seventh, the longest start of his career, with just 75 pitches under his belt. Hernan Perez led off with a single, Jesus Aguilar lined out to short, but when Orlando Arcia walked on four pitches Brault’s day was done with runners on first and second and one out.
Brault commented after the game about how he and catcher Elias Diaz had planned to use the two and four seam fastball as much as possible, working them in and out, while going to off-speed pitches more later in the game. In his last three games, Brault has allowed three earned runs in 15 2⁄3 innings.
In came Richard Rodriguez and pinch-hitter Ben Gamel dropped a single into left to tie the game. A walk to Lorenzo Cain loaded the bases, but Rodriguez got Yelich to pop up and Ryan Braun to ground out, ending the threat.
With the Pirates again failing to score, Francisco Liriano took over the eighth with the scored tied, but that wouldn’t last long. Yasmani Grandal walked on four pitches before Mike Moustakas, who has now homered ten times in fifteen games as a Brewer against the Pirates, smashed a 1-0 pitch 419 feet to right-center, bouncing off the Rav4 and giving the Brewers a late lead.
After Hernan Perez walked and Jesus Aguilar singled, Liriano exited without retiring a batter. Down two, Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle handed the ball to Geoff Hartlieb as Kyle Crick and Felipe Vazquez could only watch from the bullpen. A sacrifice fly later, the Brewers led 5-2 and it was Hader time in the ninth.
Josh Hader walked Kevin Newman to start the inning, but then Jose Osuna, Kang and Elias Diaz all went down swinging to close out the game.
Having been swept in the series, the Pirates now find themselves 7.0 games behind the division leading Brewers and only one game ahead of last place Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh now heads to Atlanta, where they’ll fave the Braves a7 7:20 p.m. ET on Monday, with Joe Musgrove (4-6, 4.44) scheduled to face Kevin Gausman (2-5, 6.15), who the Pirates roughed up last week in Pittsburgh.