A loss like this hurt in April and May, for sure. When a contending team like Milwaukee climbs back from a four-run deficit, ties it up in the late innings and then loses, the defeat feels a whole lot worse.
Ronny Paulino singled in the go-ahead run during a three-run eighth inning, and the Pittsburgh Pirates staged a rally of their own to beat the division-leading Brewers 7-4 Wednesday.
Pinch-hitter Josh Phelps followed Paulino's hit with a two-run triple off Derrick Turnbow (4-5) and rookie Steve Pearce drove in two runs for Pittsburgh, which is one loss away from a 15th consecutive losing season yet won twice in the three-game series.
"We're playing contenders for the rest of the season and we have a chance to spoil some playoff hopes," Pirates reliever John Grabow said. "We can't let up. We need to keep the mind-set that these teams are trying to kill us and we've got to play them as hard as we can."
Milwaukee, which began the day one game ahead of the Chicago Cubs, dropped to 20-42 at PNC Park, which opened in 2001. Even while mounting a comeback from a 4-0 deficit, the Brewers left five runners on base in the seventh and eighth innings.
The Brewers tied it at 4 in the eighth on Prince Fielder's run-scoring grounder and Corey Hart's RBI triple. But the Brewers, who had won nine of 13, left the bases loaded when Grabow (3-1) got pinch-hitter Geoff Jenkins to ground out after falling behind in the count 3-0.
"We just didn't get the job done there," manager Ned Yost said.
Turnbow immediately got into trouble by walking Jose Bautista and Pearce, who had four hits and three RBIs in the series. Paulino's single put Pittsburgh ahead again and Phelps -- who is on a 13-for-27 tear yet is playing little -- tripled into left-center.
"When the team comes from behind, battles hard the whole game, ties the game up and gets in a position to win and you're the guy who doesn't get the job done, it's tough," Turnbow said.
Matt Capps pitched the ninth for his 16th save in 18 opportunities and now has been scored upon in only two of his last 31 appearances. All 12 of his pitches were strikes.
The Pirates finished up a 4-2 homestand against the Cubs and Brewers, both of which were in sole possession of first place at some point in their series.
"We played the hell out of both of them," manager Jim Tracy said. "When you can compete against clubs like this that have been good the whole season and you beat them, you feel pretty good."
Afterward, it was evident in the Brewers clubhouse this loss was harder to take than most.
"When we tied it up, I felt it was our game," said Damian Miller, who homered during a two-hit day. "We had the momentum going and hopefully you hold them [in the eighth] and continue the momentum, and it just didn't happen."
Pittsburgh starter Tom Gorzelanny, trying for a 15th victory that would be the most by a Pirates left-hander in 16 years, didn't figure in the decision after limiting Milwaukee to two runs in 6 2/3 innings despite allowing 10 baserunners.
The Pirates opened a 4-0 lead by the third against Dave Bush in his second rough start in a row. The right-hander lasted only one-plus inning during an 11-4 loss Friday to Cincinnati, surrendering eight runs and nine hits.
This start was marginally better for Bush, with four runs and five hits allowed over five innings. Pearce singled in a run during the first before Bush got Paulino on a fly ball with the bases loaded.
In the third, Nate McLouth's leadoff triple was followed by Freddy Sanchez's single and Adam LaRoche's run-scoring double. Pearce followed with his second RBI of the game on a force play grounder.
The Brewers, finishing 2-5 in Pittsburgh this season, got a run back in the fourth when Ryan Braun singled and eventually scored on a double play. An inning later, Miller made it 4-2 with his fourth homer and his first since a two-homer game July 2 in Pittsburgh.
Miller hits the Pirates like no other team. Three of his four homers, including his last three, and 10 of his 20 RBIs are against them this season. He homered twice and drove in seven July 2.
Miller would have liked this game a lot better if Milwaukee had found a way to win.
"We've got to play hard for the next few weeks and if it's supposed to happen, it's supposed to happen," Miller said. "We're continuing to do things the right way. We're fighting back when we're behind and playing the game the right way and, hopefully, it will work out for us."