Miscues, Hardy do in Pirates
Errors, baserunning gaffes prove costly in Milwaukee
MILWAUKEE -- After the pitching and hitting abandoned Pittsburgh on Friday, it was the baserunning, defense and a slice of umpire interpretation that cost the club in a 6-3 loss against Milwaukee on Saturday at Miller Park in the third part of a four-game series.
J.J. Hardy's three-run homer against Matt Capps in the seventh -- only the second time Capps had allowed a run all year -- broke open a one-run game and gave the red-hot Hardy four RBIs for the night.
One batter later, Capps hit first baseman Prince Fielder in the arm with a high-and-tight pitch and was ejected by home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez. It was merely the final chapter in what amounted to a strange game.
"[Marquez] felt like he was intentionally throwing at him," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "I don't think that's the character of Matt Capps. The call and the circumstances that transpired prior to that ... he's concerned that it could have been intentional and you potentially get in a situation where you completely lose control of a baseball game."
With Tracy concerned about Milwaukee's back-end bullpen duo of Derrick Turnbow and Francisco Cordero, the skipper summoned setup man Capps to keep the game at 3-2 in the seventh with one on and one out.
After Rickie Weeks singled, Hardy connected for his second home run of the series, and Capps' 0-1 pitch to Fielder was near the slugging left-hander's head, glancing off his raised arm instead.
"I had him 0-and-1," a disbelieving Capps said. "So he had a quick hook. Obviously, stuff like that is a judgmental call on his part, and I'm not going to question what he did. I have to show him I can pitch inside. If they don't like it, that's their problem. I'm going to continue to throw the ball on the inside part of the plate."
It was among the last frustrations for the Pirates on Saturday, but certainly not the first.
The struggles of Adam LaRoche took an odd turn, as the first baseman who entered the game with a .138 batting average showed signs of breaking through, with three hits, though an error and baserunning gaffe by him proved costly.
LaRoche collected his second multi-hit game of the year, and the first since April 7. But after his throwing error in the first led to a Milwaukee run, LaRoche was the central figure in a sixth-inning rally that could have netted the Pirates more than two runs.
Freddy Sanchez doubled and scored on LaRoche's single with nobody out, and Ryan Doumit's liner struck Brewers starter Jeff Suppan (5-2) in the leg and caromed into foul territory. LaRoche rounded second and reached third, but the base was already occupied by Jason Bay, who had walked two batters earlier.
"That's a play that they teach you starting in Little League; you've got to mirror that guy," LaRoche said. "I peeked when he rounded third when he was basically on top of the bag, and apparently I just assumed he was going, put my head down and took off. That's just a mental error that can't happen, not in a game like that one."
After Bay was retired in a 1-3-6-2 rundown, LaRoche found himself in his own pickle and went down 5-2-5 after he took off for home on Jose Bautista's chopper.
"We would have had a situation with bases loaded and nobody out after Doumit hit the ball off Suppan's leg," Tracy said. "Even on the ground ball towards [third baseman Tony] Graffanino, when he went to home plate [to retire LaRoche], if the other runners would have moved up because he stayed in the rundown long enough, we would have had the exact same situation [with two runners in scoring position] with two outs."
Runners stayed at first and second, and Ronny Paulino's double one batter later only scored one to make it 3-2. With the bases loaded and two down, reliever Brian Shouse struck out Chris Duffy, who in the second inning was unsuccessful on a bunt attempt with the bases loaded and two outs.
Brewers second baseman Weeks walked to lead off the first and was stealing when Pirates starter Zach Duke (1-3) threw over to the bag, but LaRoche's wild throw went into left field and Weeks wound up at third. J.J. Hardy's RBI single one batter later ran his hitting streak to 16 games.
"I was doing what I usually do -- moving the ball around, changing speeds pretty well and locating," Duke said. "It's a tough loss for me to swallow because I felt in control."
Sanchez was charged with an error in the second after trying to field Graffanino's ground ball, though he was hindered by what appeared to be a collision with baserunner Damian Miller. Second-base umpire Adam Dowdy ruled no interference despite a protest from manager Tracy, and both runners ultimately scored.
"I thought the guy skimmed me and the play was dead," Sanchez said.
Tracy said that had Sanchez made an additional step and made contact with the runner, that's exactly what would have happened.
"I feel like we should have had an interference call," LaRoche said. "That's a huge part of the whole game. Instead, they have second and third and no outs, and I thought it was pretty clear. Apparently, it wasn't."
Pinch-hitter Xavier Nady went deep leading off the ninth against Chris Spurling for his fourth home run, but Cordero pinned down his 11th save after retiring the game's final batter on one pitch.
Duke allowed three runs, just one earned, on six hits in five innings. Suppan allowed two runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 frames.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.