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Offense stalls, can't back strong Chacin in loss

MLB.com @AdamMcCalvy

PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers' on-again, off-again offense was off again in a 1-0 loss to the Pirates on Monday at PNC Park, Milwaukee's Major League-leading 10th shutout loss this season.

Jordy Mercer's run-scoring double off Josh Hader with two outs in the seventh inning was enough to beat the Brewers (42-30), who have failed to score in a full third of their losses, yet entered the night tied with the Braves for the best record in the National League. That's just one of the reasons they fit manager Craig Counsell's early-season description as a "high-wire act."

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PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers' on-again, off-again offense was off again in a 1-0 loss to the Pirates on Monday at PNC Park, Milwaukee's Major League-leading 10th shutout loss this season.

Jordy Mercer's run-scoring double off Josh Hader with two outs in the seventh inning was enough to beat the Brewers (42-30), who have failed to score in a full third of their losses, yet entered the night tied with the Braves for the best record in the National League. That's just one of the reasons they fit manager Craig Counsell's early-season description as a "high-wire act."

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A seesaw is more like it of late. In their last five games, the Brewers have scored one, 13, one, nine and zero runs.

Monday's loss dropped Milwaukee into a tie with the Cubs atop the NL Central.

"We can't let it linger, or come to the stadium tomorrow thinking about how we got shut out for our 10th time," said outfielder Christian Yelich, whose single leading off the ninth inning was Milwaukee's second and final hit. "It's over with now. It's obviously not ideal. It's not what we want."

One theory: The Brewers are too reliant on Lorenzo Cain and Yelich to drive the offense.

Yelich, Cain face uphill climb in ASG voting 

Any team's offensive fortunes will be linked to its best hitters, but with the Brewers struggling to get offense from a number of positions, including shortstop and catcher (and right field on days Yelich is not in that spot), the link may be too strong for Milwaukee, Counsell suggested. Cain and Yelich were 1-for-8 on Monday.

"We've got to get some consistency from some spots in our lineup," Counsell said. "I think that's what you're going to get if we're reliant on the same guys, the two of them, to do the damage. When they don't have a good night, which is going to happen, it's going to be tough to plate runs."

Milwaukee was shut out Monday by Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams, who entered the night with an 8.57 ERA and a .939 opponents' OPS in his previous five starts but blanked the Brewers for seven innings on one hit -- Jonathan Villar's soft single to center field in the fourth inning. Villar's hit followed a Hernan Perez walk, and when the duo executed a double steal, it put a pair of runners in scoring position for former Pirate Erik Kratz, who took a called third strike to end the threat.

Kyle Crick and Felipe Vazquez finished Pittsburgh's two-hit shutout.

The lack of offense spoiled another terrific start for Brewers right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who carried a shutout into the seventh inning and had thrown only 74 pitches when Counsell called for Hader with runners at the corners and one out in the seventh.

With Mercer's go-ahead, two-out hit, Chacin absorbed his first loss since April 4 after allowing six hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He has a 2.55 ERA over his last 13 starts.

"This is a game tonight where the way Chacin is pitching, you're kind of thinking complete game," said Counsell. "It was a possibility, the way he's throwing the ball, if you can get him a lead.

"But when they get first and third, you know Josh can strike guys out, we had to take a little chance there. Unfortunately it didn't work out."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Hader vs. Mercer: Hader started by striking out Gregory Polanco, dropping left-handed hitters to 3-for-40 with 26 strikeouts against the Brewers lefty. Up next with two outs was the right-handed-hitting Mercer, who pulled an inside fastball for a double down the left-field line and the game's only run.

Video: MIL@PIT: Mercer rips a go-ahead RBI double in the 7th

"It didn't look like a bad pitch," said Counsell. "The strange thing is you don't see right-handers hit that ball to third base. I don't think we've seen that ball against Josh Hader since he's been in the big leagues, that ground ball on the third-base line. Give Mercer some credit."

Bell sneaks one through: Chacin's night turned on one bouncing ball off the bat off Pirates first baseman Josh Bell. With Francisco Cervelli at first base after a one-out walk Chacin would later rue, Bell bounced a base hit to center field past a diving Villar. It looked to Chacin like an out off the bat, but instead the hit put runners at the corners and prompted the call for Hader.

"Josh Bell can hit those top-spin ground balls that almost feel like they pick up speed," Counsell said. "It almost felt like it was one of those ground balls that took that last hop and took off into the outfield when it hit that dirt."

HE SAID IT
"I mean, he's been great for us. He's been unbelievable, really. Every time he goes out there, he gives us a chance to win. … It feels like six innings on 70 pitches every time he goes out there. He's a big part of why we're at where we're at." -- Yelich, on Chacin

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Brewers caught a break in the fifth when Polanco was ruled out trying to steal second base after a Brewers challenge. Polanco beat Kratz's throw and was initially called safe, but slow-motion replay showed that when his right foot popped off the base, his left was blocked by Villar, who did a good job of holding the tag. By the letter of the law, Polanco was out, and the play helped Chacin work a scoreless inning.

Video: MIL@PIT: Kratz nabs Polanco as call overturned in 5th

UP NEXT
When Freddy Peralta was pulled from a Triple-A start last week after three good innings, he was confused. He soon learned that another promotion to the Major Leagues was in store. Peralta will make his third big league start on Tuesday against the Pirates and right-hander Jameson Taillon at 6:05 p.m. CT at PNC Park.

After two Major League starts -- one good and one not so good -- Peralta posted a 1.48 ERA in five starts after returning to Triple-A Colorado Springs, including a near-no-hitter on June 5 and an 11-strikeout performance on June 10.

"I've been working hard, trying to get back here," Peralta said. "You are fighting all the time to be where you want to be -- here."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.

Milwaukee Brewers