Gorzelanny solid but Bucs fall to Crew

Gorzelanny solid but Bucs fall

PITTSBURGH -- It may have been the same result, but it most certainly wasn't the same Tom Gorzelanny. And despite suffering a 3-1 loss in front of 18,086 fans at PNC Park, that would really be the only silver lining to take away on Friday night.

Well, sort of.

Gorzelanny called it a step forward, an obvious relief after laboring through so many ineffective and inefficient starts this season.

"It's good to have an outing like that," Gorzelanny said afterward.

His manager agreed -- but only to an extent. And in doing so, he made sure that his club understood that a good-enough start wasn't going to be good enough in his book.

"At some point, our pitchers have to understand that a good outing is a win," John Russell said. "Obviously it's not just the pitchers. We've got to go out and score more runs for them.

"You can lose a game in the first, as well as the ninth," he added. "Again, not to take away from his start, but that's one of the things that we'd like to change the mentality of."

This one would, in fact, be lost in the first.

It was the second start for Gorzelanny since the left-hander returned from a seven-start stint at Triple-A Indianapolis. Each of his past two starts had come against Milwaukee -- a Fourth of July outing that sealed his demotion and another start last Saturday in his return to the Majors. Gorzelanny didn't make it through the fifth either time.

Initially on Friday, the outing appeared headed for the same sort of result. Gorzelanny opened the game by throwing nine of his first 10 pitches out of the zone, most of them high. The one strike he threw was laced by Rickie Weeks into left field for a single. Brewers shortstop J.J. Hardy then walked.

When Gorzelanny finally did go back in the strike zone, Ryan Braun took the pitch and put it in the right-field seats for a three-run homer.

"It was kind of a hard changeup, up a little bit," Gorzelanny said of the 2-1 pitch. "And I think he was just sitting on it."

Gorzelanny got out of the inning without any other damage done, and then sailed through seven innings. At one point, the left-hander retired 14 in a row.

"Basically, I just put it behind me and not let it dwell, and just kind of focus on the next guy," Gorzelanny said. "My whole strategy was to take it slow and take it easy, one guy at a time. That was my whole mindset the whole game."

After months of efforts to improve Gorzelanny's efficiency, the left-hander finally showcased what he's been looking to do all year. In fact, Russell later referred to Gorzelanny's post-first-inning effort as the most efficient he's seen the southpaw this season.

It took Gorzelanny 22 pitches to get out of the first. From there, though, he needed only 75 through his final six innings of work. Gorzelanny allowed just two baserunners in those final six innings.

"He started banging strikes and keeping the ball down," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "We never really had a good opportunity. ... He just settled in. [He] kept the ball down [and] got strikeouts. He pitched really, really well from that point."

The fact that this loss ultimately hinged on one inning also highlighted another season-long struggle -- continued first-inning pitching woes. The Pirates have now been outscored 111-64 in the first inning.

While Gorzelanny managed to keep the game close, the offense never found a way to capitalize on a number of chances against Brewers starter Dave Bush, who allowed six hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings.

"I saw us having great at-bats," left fielder Brandon Moss said. "It's just a matter of them falling and us scoring a few runs and helping these starters out, because they have been doing well these last few days."

The Pirates stranded two runners in the second, three in the third and another two in the fourth, on their way to stranding 11 by the end of the night. And with just one hit with runners in scoring position on Friday, the scarce offensive support is occurring with concerning regularity this month.

A team that once scored at will has averaged fewer than three runs per game this month. That is reflected in its 7-20 August record.

"We show up here every day and put in our work and do the best we can to win a ballgame," Moss added. "We're doing the best we can. Eventually, things are going to turn around."

Nate McLouth delivered the only run of the game for the Pirates when he broke a 13-inning scoreless streak with a solo homer to lead off the fifth. The home run was the first for McLouth since July 28, and his 23rd of the season.

The Pirates had four more hits after McLouth's long ball, but nothing on the scoreboard to show for their effort.

"We just can't score runs anymore," Russell said. "Everything we have going is with two outs. [We] can't seem to get that big hit right now."

With the loss, the Pirates have dropped a season-worst eight straight. They are 1-9 this season against Milwaukee.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.