After 14 1/2 innings at Miller Park, after Friday night had given way to Saturday morning, it seemed the Pirates had turned a corner. They erased the Brewers' four-run lead, forced extras with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning and scored six runs to snap out of
After 14 1/2 innings at Miller Park, after Friday night had given way to Saturday morning, it seemed the Pirates had turned a corner. They erased the Brewers' four-run lead, forced extras with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning and scored six runs to snap out of a two-week offensive funk.
Instead, Pittsburgh's longest game of the season turned into perhaps its most painful loss of the year. Clay Holmes gave up three runs in a wild 15th inning that Brewers shortstop Orlando Arcia capped with a walk-off single to right field. Five hours and 36 minutes after the game began, the Pirates were dealt a 7-6 defeat, the club's fourth straight, to open Players' Weekend.
"It's not the way you want to finish, for sure," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. "We battled back. We kept fighting."
The Pirates fought their way to a lead in the 15th. Elias Diaz (El Maracucho) doubled, and the Brewers intentionally walked Gregory Polanco (El Coffee) to put two runners on. Then with two outs, Francisco Cervelli (Cisco) hit a high popup into shallow right field that fell in for a tiebreaking two-run single.
Just like that, the Pirates were three outs away from a stirring victory to begin this nine-game road trip through Milwaukee, St. Louis and Atlanta. But left-hander Steven Brault (Squid) had thrown 58 pitches over four hitless innings, past his prescribed limit, so he was done for the night. Right-hander Kyle Crick (Cricky), the only other reliever in the bullpen, was unavailable. Crick had a comebacker hit off his back on Monday, and the injury flared up as he struggled on Wednesday.
"We talked to him earlier in the day and he felt it, so we wanted to stay away from him," Hurdle said.
So the Pirates handed Holmes a two-run lead, and the rookie right-hander walked the bases loaded with two outs. It was a bafflingly inconsistent sequence for Holmes, who quickly retired Christian Yelich to start the inning and struck out Ryan Braun on three pitches before walking opposing pitcher Jordan Lyles.
Veteran catcher Erik Kratz then tied the game with a single to center, and Arcia finished it, getting ahead of Holmes and then knocking the game-winning single to right field.
"Make one pitch and things are a lot different. That's the thing," Holmes said. "You have to make big pitches, and unfortunately tonight, I wasn't able to make one and get out of that inning."
According to Elias, the Brewers became the first team to win when trailing by multiple runs in extra innings since the Cubs beat the Blue Jays on Aug. 20, 2017. This season, clubs were 58-0 when leading by multiple runs in extra innings.
"The whole team battled all night. Starting with Joe, all the pitchers went out there and battled," Holmes said. "Unfortunately, I went in there and couldn't get the job done."
Hurdle's Players' Weekend jersey reads "Not Done Yet" above his No. 13, and his club will continue to fight until they are mathematically eliminated from the postseason race. But the Pirates are three games below .500 with 33 left to play. They began the day with only a 1 percent chance of reaching the playoffs, according to FanGraphs, and they are now 8 1/2 games behind the Brewers for the second National League Wild Card spot.
The Pirates have lost nine of their last 11 games. Most of that skid was the product of a team-wide slump that yielded only seven runs over their previous seven games entering Friday night's series opener at Miller Park. Offense wasn't the issue against the Brewers, however, even as they went 3-for-17 with runners in scoring position and left 19 men on base.
After starter Joe Musgrove (Moose) gave up four runs in the first on a pair of two-run homers, the Pirates pitching staff put together 13 consecutive scoreless innings and their reshuffled lineup chipped away at the Brewers' lead. Adam Frazier (Fraz) drove in two runs in the second and scored on Polanco's sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.
The Pirates were down to their final strike in the ninth, but Starling Marte (Tato) poked a game-tying single to center off Jeremy Jeffress. Closer Felipe Vazquez (Nightmare) returned to pitch a scoreless 10th, then Brault worked four hitless innings to preserve the 4-4 tie.
"We got some big performances off the mound and some guys were able to push some runs across," Hurdle said. "Not the way we wanted to finish."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In a pinch: The Pirates might have avoided extra innings if they'd been able to capitalize on their early scoring opportunities. The lack of offense forced Hurdle to make a difficult choice in the fifth, when Musgrove's spot in the lineup came up with two outs and the bases loaded against left-hander Wade Miley.
Josh Harrison (J Hay) was initially on deck, but Josh Bell (JB) emerged from the dugout to hit when the bases became loaded. Bell struck out swinging at Miley's fourth pitch, a 90-mph cutter up in the zone.
"I thought Miley was working harder than I was. He had traffic all night, and by that point, we had 10 hits already," Musgrove said. "We weren't struggling to put ourselves in situations throughout the course of the game, and I felt like I was getting stronger as the game was going. ... I expected to go out there and hit for myself, then go back out there and give us six, seven innings. It's not my decision. The opportunity was there, so we went for the runs."
• Marte's game-tying single in the ninth off Jeffress was his first off a right-handed pitcher since Aug. 8. He went 0-for-25 with seven strikeouts against right-handers during that stretch.
• This was the Pirates' longest game, in terms of innings and time, since their 2-1 win against the Nationals on July 17, 2016. That game went 18 innings and lasted five hours and 48 minutes.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Infielder Kevin Newman enjoyed a career first on an otherwise disappointing night for the Pirates, smacking a double to left field in the second inning for his first Major League hit. Newman finished 2-for-5 with two walks.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Marte singled off reliever Corbin Burnes and stole second while Sean Rodriguez (Chich) was batting in the 11th inning. The Brewers challenged the safe call, but the call on the field stood. Rodriguez and Newman then went down swinging to strand Marte at second.
Right-hander Jameson Taillon (Jamo) will start for the Pirates as they continue their three-game series against the Brewers at 7:10 p.m. ET on Saturday at Miller Park. Taillon has been on a roll since late May, posting a 3.04 ERA with 11 quality starts in his last 15 outings. Right-hander Jhoulys Chacin will start for Milwaukee.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.