As we enter the final days of August and into the stretch run, the Brewers continue to find themselves in close games. Entering tonight, the Brewers have played 17 games in August that were decided by two or fewer runs. They are just 7-10 in such games, losing nine of those 10 games to division rivals. Tonight would be no exception, as bullpen struggles would lead to a 4-2 loss to the Pirates.
On the mound for the Brewers, Jason Alexander had arguably the best start of his big league career. He got his sinker working early, retiring the first six Pirates on three strikeouts and three groundouts. In the third, he lost some command and found himself in some trouble. After a Chavis strikeout, he walked Tucupita Marcano and hit Jason Delay. With two on and one out, Oneil Cruz singled to right to drive in Marcano and make it a 1-0 game.
Bryan Reynolds would load the bases following the Cruz single with a single of his own. With the bases loaded, Alexander was able to induce an inning-ending double play and keep it a 1-0 game. The third inning would be the only time the Pirates would threaten with Alexander on the mound the rest of the night. Alexander would give up just one more hit across two more innings of work, finishing the day recording six strikeouts across five innings of work, allowing just three hits and one run.
On the other side, Mitch Keller was matching Alexander. Keller was able to keep the Brewers off the scoreboard until the fourth. Hunter Renfroe opened up the inning with a single, and Kolten Wong put a charge into a curveball, dropping a home run into the Pirates bullpen to give the home team a 2-1 lead. The Wong home run was the only blemish on the resume for Keller, whose 10 strikeouts across six innings were a season-best.
In the seventh, following a clean inning from Holby Milner, Matt Bush left a curveball in the middle of the zone and Chavis took him deep to tie the game at 2-2. This is the second time in three games that Bush has lost a one-run lead on a home run.
In the eighth, Brad Boxberger had trouble finding the strike zone. Following a Delay flyout to start the inning, Boxberger walked Cruz and allowed Reynolds to get on with a single. A Hayes flyout made it two gone in the inning, but back-to-back walks, including a four-pitch walk to Castro, gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead. The bullpen struggles continued into the ninth, Strzelecki allowed Chavis to lead off the inning with a single. Three batters later, with Chavis now on second due to a sacrifice, Oneil Cruz made it 4-2 on a double to center.
The Brewers had a chance to do something in the ninth. Down two runs, Wong and Keston Hiura opened up the inning with a double and single respectively. With men at the corners and no outs, a McCutchen flyout and Urias double play would end the threat and the game for the Brewers. The Pirates took game two in Milwaukee, 4-2.
These two will meet again tomorrow to decide on the series. Freddy Peralta will get the start for the Brewers while the Pirates have yet to name their starter for the finale. The first pitch will be at 1:10 p.m.