Pitching struggles sink Bucs vs. Brewers

Pitching struggles sink Bucs vs. Brewers

PITTSBURGH -- In the 124-year franchise history, there has never been one worse.

The Pirates' 20-0 loss to the Brewers at PNC Park on Thursday will go in the record books on a day that began with manager John Russell declaring the series finale "a big game" for the club.

In what was the worst loss in Pirates history, the only big thing about this game was the way in which the Brewers won it.

Milwaukee's offense banged out 25 hits, a record number for PNC Park. The 20-0 score marked the largest margin of defeat in franchise history, bettering the previous worst by two runs. In 1910, the Pirates suffered an 18-0 loss to Philadelphia. In 1955, Cincinnati beat them, 19-1.

Only four times in Major League history has there been a more lopsided loss, most recently the 22-0 win Cleveland had over the Yankees on Aug. 31, 2004.

And don't think the magnitude of this defeat was lost in the clubhouse afterward, either.

"It's embarrassing" were the first words out of Russell's mouth.

"It's frustrating," added Ronny Cedeno. "We're very upset."

To fuel those frustrations, Thursday's debacle was just the cap on a series that was entirely one-sided from the get-go.

Pittsburgh was outscored, 36-1, in these three losses to the Brewers, who scored in 15 of the 27 innings played. That shattered the previous worst scoring margin at PNC Park, which was 26-7 and set by the Reds last season.

And to make matters worse, the Pirates now hit the road for 10 games in three cities where they combined to go 3-15 last season.

"Those are the type of games where you've got to forget them quickly and not start putting our heads down," Garrett Jones said. "You have to tip your cap to them. They were hitting the ball well and weren't missing it. You have to forget about today and know that you're a good team."

That was much easier to believe four days ago when the Pirates finished off a home sweep of the Reds to reach 7-5 and second place in the NL Central. But suddenly, the energy built up from the hot start appears to have been sapped.

While the offense was able to score just one run in the three-game sweep, it is the collective struggles of the starting pitchers, who now have an 8.13 ERA this season, that are the primary issue.

"We have to pitch better," Russell said. "That's the bottom line. We've got to get past the third or fourth inning. It's been killing us in the games that we've been getting beat bad. We can't continue to cover that many innings out of our bullpen. We're asking a lot as it is."

Starter Daniel McCutchen did nothing to help his chances of sticking in the rotation with his 3 2/3-inning start. Six of Milwaukee's runs came with McCutchen on the mound, and the right-hander has now allowed 18 runs in 11 innings over three games.

"It all comes back to me not doing my job," McCutchen said. "As an opposing pitcher, I gave them all kinds of confidence. It all comes back to me not getting it done."

If misery loves company, McCutchen had plenty of it afterward. An already exhausted bullpen that is averaging four innings per game simply could not stop the bleeing. D.J. Carrasco gave up four runs in one inning. Joel Hanrahan surrendered another six. Octavio Dotel, called on because there were no other available options, was charged with four (two earned) in the ninth.

After the game, the Brewers made it clear that there was no deliberate intention in running up the score.

"It's crazy," said outfielder Jim Edmonds, who went 4-for-6. "You just keep playing the game and respecting the situation. They're trying and we're trying. Stuff happens. There's a fine line there between [celebrating] and respecting them and respecting the game. Guys are working their butts off and you have to respect the other team. We're not trying to embarrass anybody."

But unlike football, where you can take a knee, or basketball, where you can run out the clock, Milwaukee hitters had little other choice than to hit the pitches they saw. And they saw plenty over the plate.

"That's the first time in my career, at any level, that I've been a part of a game like this, and there's a good chance it's the last time," said Ryan Braun, who finished the series 7-for-11 with four runs scored and eight RBIs. "Everything that could possibly go our way did, and everything that could possible go against [the Pirates], did. Those days are rare."

The Pirates offense had its own issues, too. A Brewers pitching staff that had allowed at least four runs in every other game this season limited Pittsburgh to just one all series.

Milwaukee's starters combined to pitch 18 innings and allowed 12 hits, no runs and struck out 15. In comparison, the Pirates' starters tossed just 9 2/3 innings and gave up 21 hits and 17 earned runs. They struck out six.

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