The Pirates had a hard time getting on base Monday night. They had a harder time keeping the Milwaukee Brewers from stealing them.
The Pirates managed three hits off Brewers starter Marco Estrada and allowed six stolen bases in a 5-1 loss at PNC Park.
After effectively controlling the running game for much of the season, struggles of seasons past reappeared Monday with the A.J. Burnett and Michael McKenry battery. Burnett, who is slow to the plate, and McKenry, who has a below-average arm, were tormented all game by Brewers baserunners, who have long taken advantage of the Pirates.
“That’s a team that’s going to do that,” Burnett said. “They’re going to run on everything. It didn’t seem to matter whether we were quick to home or whatever it was. Nothing really went our way out there.”
All of the Brewers’ stolen bases came with Burnett on the mound. The trend reached comical levels in the fifth inning when the Pirates (21-17) called a pitchout, but Jean Segura still stole second because Michael McKenry overthrew the bag by about 20 feet.
“They have more team speed than anybody in the league,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
The Pirates have allowed 38 stolen bases this season — 10 of them have come in their past two games against the Brewers (16-20) with McKenry behind the plate both times.
“It was a storm,” Hurdle said. “We didn’t have many answers for anything out there. This has not been the norm, though. This has been abnormal for us.”
Russell Martin, the traditional starting catcher, has played just once since May 5 while dealing with a stiff neck.
Burnett (3-4) was the loser, allowing four runs, three earned, on seven hits in seven innings. He threw 104 pitches, 74 for strikes.
Estrada (3-2) allowed one earned run on three hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out five.
Estrada entered the game with a 6.05 ERA and a .293 batting average against this season. But he always has been successful against the Pirates, against whom he is now 4-0 with a 2.17 ERA.
“I think he was just hitting his spots,” said Gaby Sanchez, who scored the only Pirates run. “He was hitting away, he was hitting in.”
In his most recent outing against the Pirates, two weeks ago, Estrada allowed five earned runs in five innings. He didn’t allow that many baserunners Monday through seven innings.
Milwaukee inflicted most of its damage in the fifth. Logan Schafer led off with a double off the Clemente Wall in right field. He scored two batters later when Norichika Aoki hit a double down the right-field line, past a diving Sanchez, to give the Brewers a 2-0 lead.
Aoki stole third and scored on the next play when Jean Segura hit a slow roller toward Burnett. McKenry couldn’t cleanly handle Burnett’s underhanded toss at home as the Brewers took a 3-0 lead.
The Brewers added an insurance run in the seventh, in which the Pirates committed three errors — two by Burnett.
“It was hard for us to get in sync in any area,” Hurdle said.
Sanchez, whose seventh-inning double was the Pirates’ only extra-base hit of the game, scored later in the inning.
Andrew McCutchen robbed the Brewers of a chance to pad their early lead with a leaping catch in the third. With Segura on second and two outs, Aramis Ramirez hit a fly ball to the warning track in right-center field. McCutchen chased down the ball and snared it out of the air to end the inning.
Burnett was far from efficient in the first, when it took him 27 pitches to record three outs. He allowed hits to the first three batters he faced, though only leadoff batter Aoki hit the ball out of the infield. The Brewers also had two stolen bases before Burnett recorded his first out of the game.
Aoki scored when Carlos Gomez singled on a ground ball up the middle, giving the Brewers a 1-0 lead. Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes nabbed the ball before it broke through the infield, potentially saving the Brewers from scoring a second run.
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