Brewers' playoff hopes dealt blow in loss to Bucs
Milwaukee 4 1/2 games out of Wild Card spot after being shut out
PITTSBURGH -- Mathematically, the Brewers remain alive for a postseason berth. Realistically, even the most optimistic man in the clubhouse had to admit the odds are nearing zero.
With the offense again missing in action on Sunday, Pirates catcher Russell Martin's seventh-inning single beat the Brewers, 1-0, in the regular-season finale at PNC Park. The Brewers fell 4 1/2 games behind the Pirates for the National League's second Wild Card berth.
"It looks bad, but as [long] as you have a chance, you still continue to fight for it," said Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez, who owned up to a costly baserunning mistake in the ninth inning. "There's still six games to play, and we won, early in the season, nine games straight. Why can we not win six games straight?"
Even if they do, the math is daunting. A combination of three Brewers losses or Pirates victories will eliminate Milwaukee. If the Brewers run the table against the Reds and Cubs this week, the Pirates -- winners of 13 of their last 16 games -- would need to lose five of their remaining seven to force a play-in game at Miller Park.
Those calculations are moot if Milwaukee does not start scoring. Brewers pitchers have surrendered only 12 runs in the first six games of this do-or-die road trip, but Brewers hitters have scored only eight in that same span -- covering 61 innings at-bat. The result is a 2-4 record on a trip that continues Tuesday in Cincinnati.
"You're looking at postseason situations," hitting coach Johnny Narron said. "If you look at the scores, there wasn't a lot of runs scored by anybody in St. Louis or here. So it's just battling, and it's the pitchers putting their best stuff out there and the hitters putting their best stuff. That's big league baseball.
"But like I said, you go back and look at the scores, it's for both sides. It just didn't fall in our favor. You're facing teams that are potentially going to be or are going to be in the playoffs, so you're going to have your better pitchers. That's what your're confronted with. It's not like you're playing somebody out of contention and their callups are pitching."
A day after the 69th 1-0 victory in Brewers history, runs were similarly hard to come by in Sunday's series finale. Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta allowed only two infield singles through his first six innings -- both belonging to Pirates leadoff man Josh Harrison -- before Andrew McCutchen's infield hit sparked the winning rally in the seventh.
McCutchen took second base when a high pitch ticked off catcher Jonathan Lucroy's glove for a passed ball, then took third on a slider in the dirt that went for a wild pitch. With one out, Martin, the Pirates' hero on Friday, gave them their first hit past the infield -- a sharp single to center field for a 1-0 lead.
"That's a tough loss for us, for everybody as a team, you know?" said Peralta, who was charged with a run on five hits in seven innings, on 87 pitches. "This was an important series for us. We pitched good. Not much hitting. But like I said, this was an important series and we should have won this. We know that. We should have won."
Brewers batters, meanwhile, found themselves shut down by right-hander Vance Worley, who had not exceeded five innings in either of his previous September starts, and entered the day 0-3 with a 5.48 ERA in four career starts against Milwaukee.
Worley blanked the Brewers over eight innings on four hits, retiring the final 13 men he faced following Ryan Braun's fourth-inning single.
Worley needed only 82 pitches for his eight innings. He did not walk a batter, and struck out five. With closer Mark Melancon unavailable, Tony Watson worked around a bunch of trouble in the ninth inning, getting help when Gomez got caught in a rundown between second and third base for the first out. Watson retired Braun with two runners aboard to end the game.
"We kept battling," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We just kept thinking we're going to find a way to get something done, and we kept scratching and clawing."
The Brewers are off Monday while the Pirates begin a four-game series in Atlanta, to be followed by three games in Cincinnati.
"It sure doesn't look good," Roenicke said. "They [the Pirates] are a good team. They're playing well, and you don't expect them to not play well here the last [seven] games. And we've got to basically win it out. That's not easy to do."