Bucs' bullpen falters in loss to Crew
Beam allows two-run homer in ninth; Karstens tallies six K's
MILWAUKEE -- A game with four lead changes and plenty of late-inning drama was effectively summed up by reliever T.J. Beam in a mere four words.
"Bad pitch," Beam said. "Good hit."
And with that combination, the Brewers held onto their postseason hopes while the Pirates held onto the unfavorable distinction of being winless in Miller Park in their past 13 games there. A deflating 7-5 loss, which was capped with a walk-off homer from Prince Fielder, pushed the Pirates' season total to 92, 12 of which have come at the hands of the Brewers.
"Obviously every at-bat means a lot to the Brewers," manager John Russell said. "They are going to be tough outs late in the game because they have a lot riding on this."
They would be indeed, as Milwaukee scored five times in the final three innings. The Brewers entered the game trailing the Mets by one game in the National League Wild Card race. New York wrapped up its win midway through the evening, leaving Milwaukee desperately needing a victory of its own.
Milwaukee had already tagged relievers Jesse Chavez and John Grabow for late-inning runs, and it would make Beam the last victim. One out away from extra innings, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun prolonged the inning with an infield hit that neither of the Pirates' middle infielders had a play on.
Fielder then stepped to the plate. Russell came to the mound. His message was simple: Pitch Fielder away, and, if necessary, work around him to get to shortstop J.J. Hardy.
Beam's first two pitches were just off the plate, both balls. His third crossed right over the plate before eventually landing well over the right-field wall.
"It just hung a little big," Beam said of the pitch, a slider. "I made a mistake. You've just got to tip your hat to him."
Fielder's second career walk-off homer -- both of which have now come at the expense of the Pirates -- ruined an evening that saw Jeff Karstens finish the season on an upswing.
Up until the seventh, it looked like Karstens would eliminate the possibility of any late-inning heroics. He seemed well on his way to snapping a personal six-game losing streak in his final start of the season.
"He located, got some strikeouts, changed speeds real well, kept them off balance," Russell said. "It should be something he can take with him into the offseason and feel pretty good about."
The difference from Karstens' previous six starts -- which, despite the results, hadn't been all that bad -- wasn't as much his "stuff" as it was the rhythm he dictated, the right-hander explained afterward.
"I think in the past few games, they've been waiting on me to get ready," said Karstens, who finished with a career-high six strikeouts. "I think tonight it was me on the rubber waiting to pitch."
Yet, Karstens' strong outing would be soured with a leadoff walk to the Brewers' Craig Counsell in the seventh with the Pirates leading, 3-2.
"I think it was just poor pitch selection by myself to walk Counsell," Karstens said.
As Counsell took first, Russell elected to dip into his 'pen, calling on Chavez, despite the fact that Karstens had thrown only 87 pitches, with 62 being strikes.
Asked if the pitching change was made because Karstens looked fatigued, Russell said it was a situational decision
"[Karstens] did a great job," Russell said. "You leave him in and he gets the loss, and it's not such a great move. He did what he needed to do. Our bullpen has done a great job all year."
Chavez had been scored upon just once in his previous six appearances, but was thrust into a playoff-like atmosphere of 36,612 fan-waving fans.
"I put that out of the picture," Chavez said. "It was just another hitter, another at-bat, another inning."
The right-hander, though, proceeded to give up a single and then a go-ahead two-run double to outfielder Mike Cameron.
As quickly as the lead went in favor of the Brewers, the pendulum would swing back the Pirates' way when outfielder Steve Pearce put the Bucs back in front with his second homer of the season, a two-run blast off reliever Guillermo Mota in the eighth.
"You've got to give them credit. They battled," Russell said of his offense, which played without Adam LaRoche and Brandon Moss. "I was really proud of how the guys hung in and played."
With Grabow on in relief, a runner on second, two outs and two strikes to former Pirates catcher Jason Kendall, Kendall lifted a ball into right.
Pearce, who was already playing somewhat shallow to prevent an RBI single, broke back late. Kendall's ball drifted over his head for a game-tying RBI double.
It was the third misplayed ball by the Pirates' outfielders on the night, all of which proved consequential. Nyjer Morgan, who finished with two RBIs and a career-best four-hit game, was charged with an error in the first when he was unable to make a catch on the run in left.
Two hitters later in the first, Nate McLouth's run at trying to finish the season perfect defensively came to an unfortunate end, when his throwing error led to one of two early unearned Brewers runs.
McLouth, sprinting backward, made a diving attempt at a ball hit into deep center by Braun, but the ball bounced past him. It caromed sharply off the wall in left-center field, sending McLouth sprinting toward right. As one run came around to score, McLouth's throw missed the cutoff man -- who slipped -- allowing Braun to finish his circle around the bases and give the Brewers an early 2-0 lead.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.