Monday, September 22, 2014

Brewers' playoff hopes on death watch

By Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel
September 21, 2014
Pirates edge Brewers 1-0, move closer to playoffs
Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison (5) runs down Milwaukee Brewers' Carlos Gomez between second and third during the ninth inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Harrison tagged Gomez out to end the rundown and the Pirates won 1-0. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pittsburgh — If all it took to succeed was strong starting pitching, the Milwaukee Brewers would be having a great road trip with a playoff berth on the line.
But you've got to score a few runs, too. Just a few.
It was another punchless day for the Brewers' vanishing offense Sunday, and as a result they are perilously close to playoff elimination. One day after taking a 1-0 victory from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the sagging Brewers fell by the same score at PNC Park.
By losing two of three games for the second consecutive series on this make-or-break trip, the Brewers fell 4½ games behind the Pirates for the second wild-card berth in the National League. The Brewers have six games remaining while Pittsburgh has seven to play.
"Now, we're hoping to get help from somebody and play great," said manager Ron Roenicke. "We've got to basically win out. That's not easy to do.
"It sure doesn't look good. They're a good team and they're playing well. You don't expect them to not play well the last (seven) games."
With the starting pitching doing its job on this trip, the Brewers have allowed only 12 runs in the six games. But the hitters have failed badly, scoring only eight runs.
This is how bad it was for the Brewers' offense here: The Pirates scored in only two innings but still won two of three games.
"If you look at the scores, there weren't a lot of runs scored by anybody in St. Louis or here," said hitting coach Johnny Narron. "It's just battling and pitchers putting their best stuff out there and hitters their best stuff. It's big-league baseball.
"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. They're going to have their better pitchers (start). That's what you're confronted with. It's not like you're playing somebody out of contention and they've got their call-ups out there pitching.
"You've just got to keep pushing and try to make things happen. You've got to do the little things and stay confident. That's the one thing. When the pressure is on, you've got to push past that pressure. We all know what's at stake. They're battling and they're focused."
Much like the previous evening, when the Brewers won, 1-0, the starting pitchers dominated the action. Brewers right-hander Wily Peralta was on top of his game but Pirates righty Vance Worley was even better.
Peralta kept the Pirates off the board until they scored the only run of the game in the seventh. He allowed only five hits and three walks with four strikeouts but still fell to 16-11.
Worley (8-4), who didn't make it past the fifth inning in his two previous starts, retired the final 13 hitters he faced during his eight-inning stint. He allowed four hits and no walks while striking out five.
The Pirates finally snapped the 0-0 deadlock in the seventh and the Brewers gave them some help in doing it. Andrew McCutchen led off with a roller to the left side for an infield hit and moved to second on a passed ball by catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who couldn't get a handle on a high slider from Peralta.
Neil Walker went down swinging but Peralta uncorked a wild pitch, moving McCutchen to third. Russell Martin then stroked a single up the middle to give the Pirates their first run since the eighth inning of the series opener.
"It's a tough loss for everybody as a team," said Peralta. "It was an important series for us. We pitched good; we didn't do much hitting. We should have won this; we know that.
"When you pitch like that, you don't want to lose but that's baseball. (Worley) pitched better than me. In a series like that, you can't make any mistakes. One run is going to cost you."
After being mesmerized by Worley for eight innings, the Brewers had a chance against reliever Tony Watson in the ninth but the inning fizzled after a bad base-running mistake by Carlos Gomez, who led off with a single. Pinch-hitter Rickie Weeks hit a high chopper behind the mound that Watson fielded, but his throw to first was low and late.
Seeing third baseman Josh Harrison stray from the bag toward the chopper, Gomez took a wide turn at second base with the intention of getting to third. But for some reason he stopped — basically brain freeze — and was tagged out in a rundown.
"I had a chance to make third if I don't stop," he said. "Nobody was on third. I don't know why I stopped. Just a mistake that you learn from. The stopping was bad because if I continue to run I make it easy; I think 99%. It was a mistake."
As for yet another bad day for the offense, Gomez said, "We're not doing a good job. We're not getting a hit when we need it. It's part of the game. It's frustrating. The only thing we can do is move forward."


The 43rd save of the season Saturday night for Francisco Rodriguez (right) was the 347th of his career, tying him with Randy Myers for 10th on the all-time list. Troy Percival is ninth with 358 saves.

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