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MIL@PIT: Aoki leaps at the wall for a great grab

PITTSBURGH -- On paper, Shaun Marcum's return from the disabled list set up just right for the Brewers, who would like nothing more than to see the right-hander and free agent-to-be show the rest of baseball the sort of form he displayed before a stiff elbow sent him to the disabled list in June.

Marcum returned on Saturday against the Pirates, and is scheduled to pitch again on Thursday, one day before the deadline for teams to acquire players in a trade and have them eligible for postseason play. The Brewers, already planning for 2013, could theoretically get some salary relief and perhaps a prospect in that sort of deal. Marcum could get a chance to finish the season with a contender.

And for four scoreless innings on another sold-out night at PNC Park, Marcum pitched right to the plan. Then came a botched catch by center fielder Carlos Gomez leading off the bottom of the fifth, and, just like that, Marcum's night veered off the rails.

Both outfielder and pitcher shared the blame after a 4-0 loss to the Pirates, who scored four unearned runs following the Gomez error and snapped their four-game losing streak.

"It's frustrating and embarrassing, too," Gomez said. "Especially with Marcum coming back and he threw the ball great. We have to support him with the defense."

Marcum countered.

"I'll never get upset at a teammate for busting his butt," he said. "[Gomez] was going all-out, trying to get that ball. I've just got to do a better job when things like that happen, going out there and picking my teammates up and making better pitches."

So who was right?

"It's both," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "We should definitely make that play, but Shaun was throwing the ball so well that I think he should get out of it with little damage. ... But I was real happy with the way he threw the ball. The first four innings were outstanding. And really that [fifth] inning, until we dropped the ball for him."

The Brewers could not afford mistakes against Pirates starter Jeff Karstens, who pitched into the eighth inning without allowing a run before an injury forced him from the game, good enough to beat the Brewers for the first time in 12 career tries. He won for the fifth time in six decisions, aided by a highlight-reel catch by right fielder Travis Snider in the first inning that robbed Ryan Braun of extra bases and two slick up-the-middle plays by shortstop Clint Barmes that kept the game scoreless into the fifth.

Marcum was pitching just as well, allowing only a Pedro Alvarez double through the first four innings before Neil Walker led off the fifth with a fly ball to the right-center field gap. The speedy Gomez ran a long way for it, but simply missed it, for his fifth error this season.

"I put all my speed on it and I saw the ball kind of stop. I was a little bit out of balance and that ball hit the side of my glove," Gomez said. "It's no excuse, but it's a little tough when you have to run for one ball and you have to stop because you passed it.

"It's a moment that made the game different. If I catch that ball, either we're still playing or we win the game."

Alvarez popped out before Michael McKenry, who is proving pesky in this series, doubled to the deepest part of left field for a 1-0 Pirates lead. Marcum struck out Barmes for the second out of the inning and worked to an 0-2 count against Karstens, an .080 hitter entering the night, who punched a single into center field to make it 2-0.

Jose Tabata and Snider followed with more run-scoring hits to extend the lead to 4-0.

"It kept the rally going, got some guys fired up," Karstens said of his hit. "Got me fired up, I know that."

The long inning knocked Marcum from the game after 88 pitches. He was charged with four runs, none earned, on five hits, with one walk and five strikeouts in his first start since developing elbow stiffness on June 14 at Kansas City.

"I got a little tired there in the fifth inning, but other than that, I felt pretty good," Marcum said. "I felt I was locating from the get-go, other than that fifth inning, [when] I made some mistakes, especially the pitch to Karstens there.

"But for the most part, I think I ended up with close to 90 pitches and I felt like I located the majority of them."

Karstens allowed seven hits, did not walk a batter and struck out four in seven-plus innings to finally beat the Brewers. He had been 0-5 against them despite a respectable 3.83 ERA in 11 previous appearances, eight of them starts.

The Pirates were 1-7 in those starts, and only twice scored more than two runs in those games.

This time it was the Brewers who had trouble. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez had three hits, and shortstop Jeff Bianchi had the first two hits of his career, but the Brewers left nine men on base, including three in the ninth inning, when Nyjer Morgan struck out with the bases loaded to end the game.

The Brewers were shut out for the 10th time this season, and with their 67th loss exceeded their total from all of last season.

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