Crew endures tough loss as Hoffman falters

Crew endures tough loss as Hoffman falters

MILWAUKEE -- These days, even when closer Trevor Hoffman is making the right pitch, the end result remains the same.

Hoffman was burned by a series of fastballs on Tuesday night, so he went to his changeup early and often on Wednesday. He threw four in a row to Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit -- who was pinch-hitting -- the fourth a good pitch low in the strike zone that Doumit yanked down the right-field line for a game-tying homer and into the seats.

And the closer suffered his second blown save in as many games and his fourth this season -- matching his total from all of 2009 -- in a 6-5 loss to the Pirates in 14 innings.

"Tough day at the office," Milwaukee manager Ken Macha said.

It was the sixth home run off Hoffman in nine innings this season. Last year, he allowed two homers in 54 innings.

"I felt like I executed the pitch I wanted to, but he was able to stay back and get good wood on it," Hoffman said. "It's easy to kind of say 'snake bit' or whatever. I definitely don't like meeting you guys this frequently."

Yet there he was, at his locker when the clubhouse opened to reporters. So was catcher Gregg Zaun, who was just as befuddled.

"Could [the pitch] have been better? I don't know," Zaun said. "It was exactly what we wanted. Probably not. It was exactly where we wanted it to be. Every once in a while, Major League hitters do some pretty good things against good pitching."

Zaun said he feels for what Hoffman is enduring.

"Absolutely," Zaun said. "You'd have to be pretty cold-hearted not to feel for a class act like him. He's going out there every day, shows up with the same attitude and work ethic and goes out for the ninth inning. A lot of guys would try to run from that, but he knows that it's just a patch that will pass. He's going to start getting people out the way he's used to and everything will be just fine."

The loss left the Brewers with a tired bullpen ahead of a four-game weekend series against the Padres.

The San Diego series will not be a particularly happy homecoming for the longtime Padre Hoffman, and much of that has to do with Doumit. He touched Hoffman twice this week, hitting a grand slam on Tuesday -- the first Hoffman has allowed in 18 seasons -- that gave the Bucs a 7-3 win, and then delivering a pinch-hit solo shot leading off the ninth inning that erased a 4-3 Brewers lead and sent the game to extra innings on Wednesday.

They traded runs in the 10th inning before Pittsburgh finally won in the 14th on Garrett Jones' two-out RBI double off losing pitcher Manny Parra (0-1). Winning pitcher D.J. Carrasco (1-0) pitched the final three innings of what was the Brewers' longest game, innings-wise, since a 17-inning 1-0 win over the Angels in Anaheim on July 8, 2004.

The Pirates had lost 22 consecutive games at Miller Park through Monday and had dropped seven straight to the Brewers overall, the final two by scores of 20-0 and 17-3. But Pittsburgh rallied against Hoffman to deal Milwaukee a surprising series loss.

"I think we earned back a little bit of respect in the Brewers' eyes," Doumit said. "We've been a doormat against these guys. When you're winning by 17 or 20 runs a game, you tend not to take the other team too serious. After these last two games, I would like to think they know we're not going to give up. They're going to be in for a dogfight from here on out."

The Brewers had their chances. After Claudio Vargas surrendered a 10th-inning home run to Andrew McCutchen -- his second of the game -- Milwaukee tied the game in the bottom of the inning on Casey McGehee's RBI single. McGehee was at second when Pirates closer Octavio Dotel walked Zaun on four pitches, but rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar followed by swinging at the next pitch for a rally-killing popup.

The Crew almost won again in the bottom of the 13th. Jim Edmonds walked and stole second, injuring his back in the process, then was slow rounding third base on Escobar's single to left field. The throw home by Lastings Milledge bounced toward catcher Doumit, who had the plate blocked, and Edmonds opted to slide instead of lowering his shoulder. He was out.

That sore back hampered Edmonds in the top of the 14th, when he was slow to track down Jones' go-ahead double in the right-field corner and then made a poor throw back to the infield.

The Brewers' late-inning letdown spoiled what turned into a solid start for Chris Narveson, though it didn't begin that way. Narveson, a left-hander added to the rotation this week as a replacement for struggling right-hander Jeff Suppan, surrendered back-to-back homers and three runs before the game's first out, but then recovered nicely.

The Brewers answered with three runs off Pirates starter Paul Maholm in the bottom of the first, and Narveson went on to work five innings, retiring 14 of the final 16 hitters he faced, including a streak of 13 in a row. He was charged with those three runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.

"You would like to take the first inning away," Narveson said, "but I think you can build off the next four innings and go from there."

Ryan Braun manufactured the Brewers' third run with some sneaky baserunning, and Corey Hart snapped a 3-3 tie with an opposite-field homer off Maholm leading off the fourth, Hart's third this season.

That lead wouldn't last.

"The bottom line is, I didn't get it done again," Hoffman said.

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