Friday night’s series opener between the two was one of those games. With a banged-up starting lineup still missing Christian Yelich, along with Lorenzo Cain and Kolten Wong on the injured list, the Brewers struggled to get any kind of offense going. Rookie JT Brubaker held them to a single run over 6 innings — his third straight start of 1 run allowed to start the year — and the Brewers’ bullpen was shaky in what ended up being a 6-1 loss.
The Brewers’ streak of 8 straight outings of at least 5 innings pitched and 1 earned run or less from their starting pitchers ended when Adrian Houser left after a busy 4.1 innings and 1 run allowed — a solo home run surrendered to his arch-nemesis Colin Moran in the 2nd inning — but 2 runners on, both of whom Brent Suter promptly allowed to score on a 2-RBI triple by Adam Frazier. Suter has now inherited three runners out of the bullpen this year and has allowed all of them to score.
Suter allowed another run of his own before getting out of the 5th inning with the Brewers down 4-0.
The lone offensive highlight of the night for the Brewers was a booming RBI double by Tyrone Taylor in the bottom of the 5th that split the gap in left-center field, driving in Jace Peterson for the local nine’s only run of the night.
That’s not to say the Brewers didn’t have any chances to add more. Travis Shaw, who has largely carried the offense to this point in the season, came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 3rd inning, but struck out to end a 9-pitch at-bat. He came up again with two runners on after Taylor’s double and Keston Hiura was hit by a pitch, but a hard-hit ball right up the middle was perfectly positioned by the Pirates defense to end the inning. Shaw got another bases-loaded chance in the bottom of the 7th, but the Pirates brought in their lone lefty, Sam Howard, to face him and he ended up flying out to left field to end that inning.
Still, the game was in reach at 4-1 until the 8th inning, when Devin Williams continued to try to work his way out of delayed spring training mode. After looking like the Old Devin Williams on a swinging strikeout of Jacob Stallings on a nasty changeup, Williams left a change in the middle of the zone against Gregory Polanco, who destroyed the pitch for a 2-run home run — the first home run Williams has ever surrendered on a changeup — to put the game out of reach at 6-1.
Milwaukee’s bats went out with a whimper in the final two innings to drop them to 7-6 on the year.
If there’s hope, it’s that the Brewers have already twice won a series after dropping the first game — once against the Cardinals, and once against the Cubs. They’ll have to do it again to secure a winning homestand, this time against a Pittsburgh team that’s actually playing well, coming off a 4-game split with the heavily favored San Diego Padres and winning a series against the Cubs.
Brett Anderson will get the ball Saturday night against Trevor Cahill.