By Jim Hoehn
The Pirates will have to wait at least one more game before officially shedding more than two decades of losing.
Pittsburgh ace Francisco Liriano lasted only three innings and the Milwaukee Brewers pounded out a 9-3 victory Wednesday night to delay the Pirates’ from clinching their first winning season since 1992.
“We are trying to win every day,” said outfielder Andrew McCutcheon. “Every game is important from the first to the last. So we don’t treat it any differently from any other game. We go out every day to win. That is what we are going to do in St. Louis.”
Liriano (15-7), who had allowed five earned runs in his previous four starts, was rocked for seven runs on seven hits, with two walks and two costly wild pitches. The Pirates, aiming for their 82nd victory, twice left the bases loaded and stranded 12 runners.
The loss also trimmed the Pirates’ lead in the NL Central to one game over the Cardinals, who defeated Cincinnati 5-4 in 16 innings. The Pirates begin a three-game series in St. Louis on Friday.
The Brewers tagged Liriano for five runs on five hits in the third inning to open a 7-2 lead.
Norichika Aoki and Carlos Gomez singled to open the third and Jonathan Lucroy followed with an RBI double to left to make it 3-2. Aramis Ramirez then doubled home both runners. After Khris Davis struck out, Yuniesky Betancourt singled Ramirez to third. Jeff Bianchi’s comebacker to the mound scored Ramirez, and Betancourt came around to score on a pair of wild pitches by Liriano.
Wily Peralta (9-14) allowed three runs on nine hits in six innings, striking out six and walking one.
“I thought he made some really good pitches when he needed to but he struggled,” Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. “He struggled with his command and then all of a sudden on 3-2 he makes a real good pitch — and he did it more than once — so when he needed to make one, he did.”
Players from both teams briefly came out of the dugouts and bullpens in the fifth inning after Justin Morneau was hit by a pitch from Peralta, but no physical contact ensued.
Andrew McCutcheon opened the fifth with his 19th home run to trim Milwaukee’s lead to 7-3. Peralta’s next pitch was high and tight, hitting Morneau on the right forearm as he spun away. Morneau, whose career has been interrupted by post-concussion syndrome, stared down Peralta as he walked to first, bringing players from both teams onto the field.
“Morneau was thinking that we were coming at him but any time you give up a home run and the next guy is hit, I don’t care what guy it is, when you get hit by a ball you get mad,” Roenicke said. “I don’t have any issue with Morneau getting a little mad there. I know we weren’t trying to hit him. I know Wily wasn’t trying to hit him. And I know you get mad (when you get hit). That wasn’t an issue with me.”
Pittsburgh had three singles and a walk in the second, but managed just one run, leaving the bases loaded.
Marlon Byrd singled with one out, but was forced at second as Pedro Alvarez reached on a fielder’s choice. John Buck then singled Alvarez to second. Jordy Mercer followed with a single off the glove of diving third baseman Ramirez, allowing Alvarez to continue around to score. Liriano walked to load the bases, but Jose Tabata bounced into a forceout at second.
Davis answered in the bottom of the second with his ninth home run, a two-run shot he sent 428 feet over the wall in left-center.
The Pirates tied it 2-2 in the third on a single by Neil Walker, a double by Morneau and RBI single by Byrd.
Milwaukee added two unearned runs in the seventh on Bianchi’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly and Martin Maldonado’s RBI single.
Pirates All-Star reliever Jason Grilli, who had been sidelined with a right forearm strain, pitched the eighth for his first appearance since July 22. Grilli, who was leading the NL with 30 saves when he was hurt, allowed one hit and struck out two, throwing 17 pitches.
“I hope it looked good because I felt pretty good. It is always good to be back on the mound,” Grilli said. “It is definitely more adrenaline here than rehab starts. My whole plan even still was to make sure I am throwing strikes, commanding the striking zone, commanding my pitches.”
NOTES: Brewers SS Jean Segura was held out of the lineup. Manager Ron Roenicke said he was not feeling well. ... Brewers LHP Tom Gorzelanny, who left Monday’s game with left shoulder tightness after facing one batter, was scheduled to be examined Wednesday night by a doctor. ... Morneau switched to uniform No. 66 on Wednesday after wearing No. 33 with the Twins, but that number was retired by Pittsburgh in honor of Honus Wagner. Morneau opted to double that. ... Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said before the game that OF Starling Marte is “slowly improving.” The RHP is on the 15-day DL with a right hand contusion and sprained right ring finger. He last played Aug. 18. Hurdle said Marte hasn’t been able to clutch a bat with two hands yet, or throw comfortably. Pirates reliever Stolmy Pimentel made his major league debut in the sixth and struck out pinch-hitter Juan Francisco to open the inning.