PITTSBURGH -- Before Monday’s game, manager Clint Hurdle outlined a few reasons the Pirates decided to trade Jordan Lyles to the Brewers a week ago. Lyles’ impending free agency was one of them. The others were Tuesday starter Steven Brault, top prospect Mitch Keller and the evolution of Dario Agrazal.
The Pirates want to see more of Agrazal over the next two months after his solid start in the Majors, but they came out on the wrong end of his matchup with Lyles. Agrazal gave up five runs in five innings, while Lyles limited the damage to a pair of home runs in Pittsburgh’s 9-7 loss to Milwaukee at PNC Park.
The Pirates have lost 19 of their 23 games since the All-Star break, falling 16 games under .500 for the first time since they were 69-85 after a loss on Sept. 22, 2017.
After being designated for assignment in January, Agrazal impressed the Pirates in his first five Major League outings by outperforming his peripheral numbers and putting together a 2.25 ERA with four quality starts. The right-hander got the most out of a relatively underwhelming arsenal by consistently executing pitches and keeping hitters from making solid contact.
It’s been a different story the last three times out. Agrazal gave up three home runs in 5 1/3 innings on July 26 against the Mets. On Wednesday, he allowed two homers in 3 2/3 innings against the Reds. In Monday’s series opener, Agrazal surrendered eight hits, including two homers, while walking two and only striking out one.
“Sometimes I look at it like it could be 90-95 pitches, and out of those 90-95 pitches, two or three just hang -- and they take advantage of that,” Agrazal said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “There are things that happen in the game, things that I obviously I don’t want to happen. I continue to work hard to do everything possible to prevent that from continuing.”
Christian Yelich delivered the initial blow, bashing an opposite-field homer -- his 38th of the season -- off Agrazal with two outs in the first inning. Reynolds robbed Mike Moustakas of a home run in the second inning, but Moustakas launched a solo shot into the right-field seats to lead off the fourth.
“He relies on his sinker. He lives on his sinker,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He does leave balls in the middle of the plate, and we got balls in the middle.”
Milwaukee’s scuffling lineup didn’t stop there, but the rest of the rally was not entirely on Agrazal. When you pitch to contact, you’re relying on your defense to turn balls in play into outs whenever possible.
“You need to make plays,” Hurdle said. “We need to play better defense in the fourth inning. That could’ve helped things.”
The Brewers loaded the bases on a trio of singles, the last of which Josh Bell stopped on all fours without making a throw, to bring up Lyles with nobody out. Lyles hit a soft grounder to third baseman Colin Moran, who likely had time to force out Lorenzo Cain at home and start a double play. Instead, Moran threw to first base and Cain scored. The next hitter, Trent Grisham, swatted a two-run single to center.
“I just kind of panicked. I thought I wouldn’t be able to get him at home, then stupidly, I didn’t go to second,” Moran said, noting that he could have turned a double play two different ways. “It’s tough because then you put the pitcher in a bad position. ... Obviously a mistake that just can’t happen.”
The Pirates only managed two hits against Lyles, but they both packed a punch. Reynolds led off the fourth with Pittsburgh’s first hit of the night, a solo shot out to right. Pablo Reyes, pinch-hitting for Agrazal in the fifth, crushed a full-count fastball to left for a two-run homer. It was Reyes’ first home run of the season and the Pirates’ ninth pinch-hit homer of the year. Both teams put up three runs in the eighth and another in the ninth, but Milwaukee closer Josh Hader held on to reward Lyles with his second win in his second start with the Brewers.
“They did a good job of laying off what I do really good, just throwing a ball above the zone and then curveballs up under,” Lyles said. “But we were able to get five decent innings against these guys, and we will take it with how the game played out offensively for us, for sure."