Brewers pitchers put up a good fight in Pittsburgh

The pitching staff gave the Milwaukee Brewers plenty of chances to score enough runs to win Sunday’s series finale in Pittsburgh, but the undermanned unit couldn’t even muster a threat.

Almost seven hours after the first pitch, Russell Martin snuck a ground ball up the middle to score Gaby Sanchez and give the Pirates a 2-1 victory, sending Milwaukee to a season-worst 16 games under .500.

Though a rain delay lasting over two hours forced Kyle Lohse out after 1 2/3 innings, Tyler Thornburg worked five scoreless innings to get the Brewers into the seventh inning with a 1-0 lead.

“It was a tough game for us,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “You have Lohse pitching, he’s been pitching so well that you want him out there. Once we got too long with the rain delay, we didn’t want him to go back out. Thornburg came in and did exactly what we needed him to do and gave us the innings. Our bullpen was really good again today.”

The Pirates were able to get a run off Jim Henderson in the eighth inning to tie the game, but Michael Gonzalez, Brandon Kintzler and Francisco Rodriguez kept the game tied heading to the 14th inning.

Rodriguez, who got Pedro Alvarez to hit into an double play to end the 13th inning with the bases loaded, was forced to head out for another inning of work. A tall task for a reliever who has rarely worked more than one inning, Rodriguez allowed a one-out single to Sanchez, but got Michael McKenry to fly out.

With Jody Mercer at the plate, Sanchez took advantage of Rodriguez not paying attention to him at first base and stole second. After a walk to Mercer, Martin found a hole past a diving Jean Segura to win the game.

The Brewers had just four hits in 14 innings, with three of them coming from catcher Martin Maldonado, as the rest of the team went 1 for 41. Milwaukee has scored just two runs over its last 31 innings, as its makeshift lineup hasn’t posed much of a threat since the first inning of Friday’s loss to the Pirates.

The only run Milwaukee scored Sunday was unearned, as Yuniesky Betancourt reached on an error before coming around to score on a Logan Schafer safety squeeze.

“Their pitching is outstanding,” Roenicke said. “I see why their ERAs are what they are because every guy that comes out of the bullpen has good stuff, it’s located well, they have offspeed stuff as well as fastball. Their pitching staff is really good.”

While the loss was as frustrating as any this season, Thornburg’s performance can be viewed as a silver lining. He’s now worked nine scoreless innings in the big leagues this season, looking like a totally different pitcher than the one who holds an 0-9 record and a 5.79 ERA in Triple A.

“This game is hard to figure out,” Roenicke said. “You put him in a different situation, and he has the stuff. He has a real live fastball, real good curveball and a real good change up. It’s hard to say why it goes bad down there, but he’s come up here and done a nice job for us. Hopefully he’ll continue with that.”

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