Indians' comeback bid falls short vs. Bucs
Branyan's homer in sixth not enough after Huff's ineffective start
PITTSBURGH -- Indians pitcher Frank Herrmann giving up the first run of his Major League career and Pirates third baseman Pedro Alvarez recording his first hit and driving in his first run since his debut were among the unfamiliar happenings in front of the sold-out crowd of 38,008 at PNC Park on Saturday night.
- 134 wins
- 118 wins
At the end of the night, the scoreboard represented another rarity: the Pirates with more runs than their opponent.
The Indians fell to the Pirates 6-4, dropping their fifth contest in their past six games. Pittsburgh's win snapped a season-high 12-game losing streak, its longest since 2006.
The third sellout crowd of the season made it through the one-hour rain delay and watched the Pirates honor the 1960 World Series team, with former players on hand to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the championship. They then watched the Indians and Pirates strike early, one night after they went six scoreless innings to start the contest.
Indians starter David Huff struggled, going five innings, walking six batters and surrendering six hits while connecting for strikes on just 57 of his 104 pitches. He was charged with five runs after being handed an early lead, and he was unable to replicate his gem here one year ago, when he tossed eight scoreless innings and gave up just four hits in a win last June 23.
"I wasn't efficient," Huff said. "My fastball location was off and I wasn't throwing a lot of strikes."
At 2-9, Huff has not won a decision since May 23 against the Reds.
"We're going to have to revisit the situation, because it's tough," Indians manager Manny Acta said.
Perhaps inspired by the legendary faces -- Bill Mazeroski, Vern Law, Elroy Face -- on hand, both teams struck early.
Trevor Crowe led off the game with a single to the right side and Shin-Soo Choo followed with his 13th double of the season, this one off the left-field wall. But the Indians managed just one run in the frame despite starting with runners at second and third and nobody out.
With nobody on and two outs in the bottom half of the inning, Huff walked two batters on eight straight pitches. Lastings Milledge beat out a chopper to short by diving to first, and Andrew McCutchen, running the whole way, came around from second and beat Russell Branyan's throw to the plate to tie the game early.
"You got them into this game by walking people," Acta said. "You had the first two outs in the first inning, then after that, you walk the next two guys. Well then, you're giving them a chance to get into the game.
"We set the tone in the very first inning by scoring a run, and then we left a guy at third stranded with only one out. We had an opportunity to at least tack on two runs and we didn't do it. We just let them get back into the game."
The duo of Milledge and McCutchen was just getting started.
Neil Walker and McCutchen singled to lead off the third, and Milledge drove them both home with a triple that fell just out of the reach of a diving Choo in right field. Milledge doubled home McCutchen two innings later and Alvarez, playing in his fourth career game, followed with his first career hit, a ground-rule double that bounced into the stands in left to drive in Milledge and make it 5-1. Milledge had four RBIs for the third time in his career, reaching base four times and finishing a home run shy of a cycle. McCutchen reached base five times and scored four runs.
"They were in the middle of everything," said Acta, who coached Milledge when both were with the Mets and later the Nationals. "But David just didn't help himself by walking guys and pitching behind in the count and up in the zone, and [that's] tough to do at this level, regardless of who you're facing."
In the sixth, Branyan hit a three-run home run off Jeff Karstens that hit the right-field foul pole, the first homer by a visiting team at PNC Park in 72 1/3 innings.
"It was hit well," Karstens said. "It was a bad changeup up after I made a good pitch, and he swung through it. I tried to go back again, it was elevated and he did a good job."
Branyan's home run highlighted a five-hit frame for the Indians, chasing Karstens. But three relievers combined to end the Indians' rally, as pinch-hitter Travis Hafner grounded out to right-hander Evan Meek with the bases loaded to end the inning.
After a two-out triple by McCutchen knocked out Herrmann in the eighth, Garrett Jones hit an RBI single, extending his hitting streak to 10 games and ending Herrmann's scoreless-innings streak at 35, dating back to his days at Triple-A Columbus earlier this season.
The Indians' chance at winning their first series in Pittsburgh since 1997 will have to wait until Sunday.
"That's the key," Jason Donald said. "We have a chance to win the series, and after about a half-hour, 45 minutes, we'll get ready to move on."
Matt Fortuna is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.