By Todd Rosiak, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel –
MILWAUKEE — After returning home early Friday morning in the wake of an inspiring four-game road sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Milwaukee Brewers took the field at Miller Park about 12 hours later looking like a completely different team.
Randy Wolf’s command issues returned, Nyjer Morgan’s misplay in center field in the third inning cost three runs and the offense couldn’t get anything going. In the end, Milwaukee lost, 8-2, to a Pittsburgh Pirates team it has routinely pounded on its home field in recent years.
Gone is the Brewers’ season-high, four-game winning streak — but not necessarily all the positive vibes they brought back with them from the West Coast, manager Ron Roenicke believes.
“I don’t think that’ll be an issue,” he said. “I think we didn’t play a good game today, but I still think the four games did an awful lot for what we need to do going on. I think tomorrow we’ll come out and play a good ball game.”
Milwaukee struck first in the bottom of the first inning and got its run from the unlikeliest of sources.
Morgan, who had exactly one extra-base hit and no runs batted going into the game, battled back from a 0-2 count against Kevin Correia to smack a solo home run into the seats in right to make it 1-0.
That snapped Morgan’s streak of 138 plate appearances without an RBI to open a season, which was a major-league record.
“That certainly was nice,” Roenicke said. “Hopefully he won’t have to think about it anymore. Because guys think about it. It’s there. I’m sure it was on his mind. Hopefully this will get him to relax a little bit and start swinging it.”
The lead stood up until the third, when the wheels came off in a big way for the Brewers and Wolf.
Wolf, who’d allowed a pair of base-runners in both the first and the second innings, surrendered consecutive triples to Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen to lead off the inning as the Pirates tied it at 1-1.
Pedro Alvarez struck out looking, but then Neil Walker inside-outed a single to right to score McCutchen. Matt Hague and Rod Barajas followed with singles, with Barajas’ knock scoring Walker despite a close play at the plate on a throw from left by Ryan Braun.
Jordy Mercer followed with a walk to load the bases, and then the Brewers cut down another potential run at the plate when Correia grounded to third and Aramis Ramirez threw home to force Hague.
In position to get out of the inning, Wolf looked like he’d done just that when he got Jose Tabata to line the ball to center.
Problem was, Morgan misread the ball. Taking two steps in initially, Morgan could do nothing but make a futile try at a leaping catch as the ball sailed over his head and rolled to the wall, clearing the bases .
Wolf finally got Harrison to fly out to end the inning, but the damage had been done, and Pittsburgh led, 6-1.
“It certainly was a big play,” Roenicke said. “He makes that play, we’re still 3-1, and I feel really good. “
The Brewers managed just one run from there on a solo homer to right by Corey Hart in the sixth .
Pittsburgh, the second-worst hitting team in the major leagues, tacked on a couple more runs in the eighth on a two-run double by McCutchen. The Pirates finished with 13 hits.
Wolf, meanwhile, dropped to 2-5 after giving up eight hits, six earned runs and four walks over six innings.
“I actually thought his stuff was very good,” Roenicke said. “I expected him to have a good game, but he got a little off on command. He’d throw some good pitches, then the one mistake he’d throw, they’d hit it well.”
The Brewers didn’t arrive in Milwaukee from Los Angeles until 6:15 a.m., and Roenicke was asked if that might have played a role in the team’s performance.
“I don’t know,” Roenicke said. “You can make that excuse, but I thought the guys looked good today. We’ve played poorly when we’ve gotten good rest.”
The Brewers got more bad news on the injury front when Braun had to leave the game after aggravating his sore right Achilles and hip after stealing second base in the sixth inning.
He’d just returned to the lineup after being held out of Thursday’s game.
“Kind of the same thing — turned a little sideways (on the slide), Achilles, got his hip a little bit because of the weird slide,” said Roenicke. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow. We need to have him in the lineup. “