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Wolf labors as Brewers fall to Bucs

Wolf labors as Brewers fall to Bucs

PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers are trying to make their second half interesting. The starting pitchers haven't offered much help.

On Wednesday it was left-hander Randy Wolf's turn to get knocked around, to the tune of 12 earned runs on 13 hits in a 15-3 loss to the Pirates at PNC Park. Wolf set dubious career highs for runs allowed and hits, and his outing marked the third time in four games that a Brewers starter was touched for 10 runs. It's also the second straight night it happened, though five of the Pirates' runs off Dave Bush on Tuesday were unearned. That fact offered little consolation.

"That's no fun," Brewers manager Ken Macha said. "You want to sit there where I sit? That's no fun.

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"But, [prior to this] we had a stretch where we pitched pretty well. That's part of the inconsistencies we've had the whole season. ... Two steps forward, two steps back."

The Elias Sports Bureau searched for a less-effective four-game stretch of starting pitching and they had to go back to 1937, when Oral Hildebrand, Chief Hogsett and Jim Walkup surrendered at least 10 runs each in three straight games for the 108-loss St. Louis Browns. Hildebrand and Hogsett were torched in a July 5 doubleheader, and Walkup didn't have any better luck four days later.

The Browns, by the way, were the American League's Milwaukee Brewers in 1901 before moving to St. Louis.

Under normal circumstances, Wolf would have been long gone before the Pirates reached double digits. But the bullpen was depleted after its recent run of overwork, leaving at least three relievers -- Zach Braddock, Todd Coffey and Carlos Villanueva -- unavailable. Wolf volunteered after the fifth inning to continue to pitch. He lasted only two more outs.

"I told Rick [Peterson, the pitching coach], 'Look, I'll stay in there,'" Wolf said. "I'd rather me take the abuse than the bullpen. ... I've already got killed enough. I don't care what my ERA is. I'm just trying to save those guys out there."

His ERA after 21 starts is 5.20. Not exactly what the Brewers had in mind when they gave Wolf a three-year, $29.75 million contract at the Winter Meetings.

"I've had four out of five good starts, and then there's a blow-up," he said. "Today was definitely one of the blow-ups. It's extremely frustrating, because I was getting to the point where I liked the way I was throwing the ball. Then you have a day like today where you just get killed."

Wolf had a 3.25 ERA in his last seven outings prior to Wednesday and met the definition of a quality start -- at least six innings, three or fewer earned runs -- in five of those games.

He has 10 quality starts this season out of 21, but his ERA has been hurt by four bad games in which he's 0-4 with a 13.29 ERA.

"Those hurt," Wolf said. "You can't get those back. I know I'll be fine, I know I'll recover. But when those happen, it's a nightmare."

Those nightmares have been a problem for Brewers pitchers this month. Major League pitchers have combined for 2,840 starts this season and only 13 times have allowed at least 10 runs. Four of those instances belong to Brewers, all in the past two weeks: Chris Narveson (10 runs, nine earned) against the Giants on July 7, Manny Parra (10 runs, all earned) against the Braves on Sunday, Dave Bush (10 runs, five earned) against the Pirates on Tuesday, and now Wolf.

He actually took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning. Against Pirates starter Zach Duke (4-9), Casey McGehee hit a sacrifice fly in the first inning, George Kottaras hit a solo home run in the second and Carlos Gomez delivered an RBI single in the third.

But the Pirates erupted for six runs in the fourth inning to take the lead for good, a rally that began with a pair of singles by left-handed hitters Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez and ended with a three-run home run by Delwyn Young that made it 8-3. Young started for the injured Andrew McCutchen and drove in five runs.

Alvarez added a two-run homer off Wolf in the fifth inning for a 10-3 lead and the Pirates tacked on two more in the sixth to make it 12-3. Macha finally made a change, removing the left-handed Wolf in favor of a right-handed reliever -- David Riske -- to face the left-handed hitting Alvarez. Riske induced a one-pitch pop-out.

But the Pirates weren't finished. They scored twice against Riske in the seventh inning and Alvarez hit another homer off Kameron Loe in the eighth. Alvarez hit three home runs in his first 28 games, but has belted four more in his last two games against the Brewers.

"There are going to be some growing pains with that youth and they're going to do some very fun things," Pirates manager John Russell said. "I think they're starting to believe in that now and we'll keep pushing it and we'll keep striving every day to get better, but these guys are really fun to watch."

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

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