MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jimmy Nelson lost the game and his manager lost the argument in the fourth inning.
Sean Rodriguez hit a home run and a two-run single, Andrew McCutchen went deep and rookie Chad Kuhl pitched six strong innings and the Milwaukee Brewers lost 4-1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.
Nelson couldn’t stop the Pirates from winning their sixth straight at Miller Park, and sixth of seven overall to improve to 76-75. Pittsburgh began the day 4 1/2 games behind San Francisco for the second NL wild card spot. The Pirates also have to hurdle the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins, too.
McCutchen helped the Pirates jump out to an early lead for the second consecutive game. He crushed a 2-2 pitch that just slipped by the left-field foul pole for his 24th home run. Tuesday, he hit a two-run double in the first.
“I thought it was going foul, but it didn’t,” Nelson said. “It was a good fast ball down and away. It ran up and in. I was impressed that he got to it. He did a good job of squaring up on a mistake right there.”
Rodriguez’s two-run single finished the scoring in the first off Nelson (8-15) and extended his hitting streak to 10 games. Rodriguez victimized Nelson again when he hit his 18th home run of the season in the fourth.
“He just didn’t make pitches,” Counsell said. “He lost his command a little bit. The big thing was the walk to Cervelli and falling behind to Rodriguez, that’s what ended up hurting him. That’s what ends up costing you the game.
It’s been a puzzling season for Nelson.
He was 5-3 in his first 11 starts, but the loss to Pittsburgh dropped his record to 3-12 in his last 20 starts. He put his team in a 3-0 hole in the first and then labored through the next four innings before being pulled for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth.
Counsell was ejected by home plate umpire Jerry Lane with two out in the top of the fourth inning.
Adam Frazier had just fouled off a pitch from Nelson that bounced over his foot, out of the box and carried to first baseman Christ Carter who stepped on the bag for the apparent third out. Frazier looked puzzled and stayed put at the plate, but when the Brewers started off the field, Lane signaled foul ball.
Counsell came out to argue with Lane.
“Overall, what upset me was he just missed the call,” Counsell said. “I felt like he changed his call. More than anything, I felt like he changed his call.”
Second baseman Scooter Gennett noticed the hesitation in Lane’s call.
“Usually when a guy fouls a ball off his foot, the guy says it right away,” Gennett said. “He (Lane) kind of waited for the whole play to develop and then called it foul.”
Counsell finished and walked back toward the dugout, but then turned back for some final thoughts. Lane and Counsell became animated in their discussion before Lane ejected Counsell. First base umpire Hunter Wendelstedt ushered Counsell to the dugout.
Kuhl (5-3) pitched two-hit ball through the fourth before the Brewers manufactured a run on Jonathan Villar’s two-out single in the fifth. Kuhl struck out six and walked one in his second career start against the Brewers.
The win was much better result than the last time he faced the Brewers.
Pirates: LF Starling Marte missed his 16th consecutive game with low back discomfort, but pinch hit in the eighth and took a called third strike. He went through another full workout and the club anticipates his return to the field in the near future.
Brewers: LF Ryan Braun missed his second consecutive game to be with his wife, Larisa, and their new son, Greyson Joseph. Manager Craig Counsell said that it was possible Braun may be back Thursday for the last of the three-game series with the Pirates. . RHP Taylor Jungmann (0-4, 8.34 ERA) makes his first start since April 28 against the Chicago Cubs when he faces Cincinnati on Saturday. He made the Opening Day roster, but then struggled mightily in his first five starts that he was demoted. Jungmann hasn’t allowed a run in 10 appearances since being recalled from Double-A Biloxi on Sept. 6.
Pirates: RHP Ryan Vogelsong (3-5, 4.87 ERA) makes his 10th start since being reinstated from the disabled list (facial fractures) on Aug. 4. He is unbeaten in his last four starts against the Brewers, including a 5-3 decision this Aug. 26 at Miller Park.
Brewers: RHP Chase Anderson (8-11, 4.47) makes his fifth start against the Pirates this season. He is 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in the four previous outings.