The Milwaukee Brewers can’t afford to lose many games, especially against non-contending teams such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, if they expect to hold onto first place in the National League Central.
The visiting Brewers (76-61) took a 4-2 loss to the Pirates (64-74) in the opener of a three-game series Monday, dropping Milwaukee’s lead over the second-place Chicago Cubs to 2 1/2 games.
Things appeared to line up well for Milwaukee in this series. The Brewers’ three strongest starters — former NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes, two-time All-Star Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta, the NL pitcher of the month for August — were scheduled to face the Pirates. Pittsburgh, which is scrambling to field a rotation, originally did not have a projected starter for any of the three games.
However, 24-year-old Luis L. Ortiz, is in his first full major league season and not announced for the start until Monday afternoon, outpitched Burnes in the opener to hand the Brewers their second straight loss.
“We just didn’t do enough offensively — it’s as simple as that,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, whose normally robust offense got its two runs on second-inning sacrifice flies and later hit into two inning-ending double plays.
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, won for the sixth time in seven games.
“Just playing hard, and the pitchers keeping us in the game, giving us a chance to get it going on offense,” Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, who homered Monday, told AT&T Sportsnet.
“At the end of the day, just playing all the way through the game.”
The Pirates seem to be trying to replicate their surprising April when they went 19-9. Now, in the final month of the season, the roster has turned over quite a bit since then because of injuries, trades, and a parade of rookies and young players being called up and given a chance to play.
“Just getting more and more comfortable playing with each other,” Hayes said. “A lot of us, it’s our first time playing together. We’re super young. We just try and keep it fun but work hard.”
One of Pittsburgh’s important veterans, designated hitter Andrew McCutchen, doubled twice, drove in a run and scored on Monday before he left the game following the fifth. He seemed to tweak something during an at-bat that inning but still ran hard en route to a double before getting stranded at second.
Coming off the field, McCutchen struggled and needed assistance. The team later announced he was dealing with left Achilles tendon tightness.
“Anytime you see one of your players, especially him, pull up and limp, you have some concerns,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “It’s something that we’ll monitor and check on (Tuesday) morning.”
McCutchen termed his removal “just a precaution.”
Woodruff (3-1, 2.70 ERA) remains on schedule to start for the Brewers, while multiple outlets reported Monday night that fellow righty Andre Jackson (1-1, 4.46) would go for the Pirates.
Woodruff is coming off a no-decision Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs in which he allowed two runs and two hits in six innings, with eight strikeouts and one walk. He is 6-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 16 career games, 14 starts, in his career against Pittsburgh. That includes a loss Aug. 6 when he gave up two runs and four hits (two of them homers) in five innings with nine strikeouts and no walks.
Jackson, meanwhile, will do something he has never done in his career — take the mound coming off a win. In Kansas City on Wednesday, the 27-year-old gave up one run on two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings for his first career victory. In two career outings against the Brewers, Jackson has a 3.00 ERA over six innings pitched with no decisions. This will be his first start against Milwaukee.
Jackson threw three scoreless and hitless relief innings against the Brewers during his Pirates debut on Aug. 5 after he was acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
–Field Level Media