PITTSBURGH (AP) - Carlos Gomez is convinced the Milwaukee Brewers' current slump is just a momentary bump in the road.
That doesn't make it any easier to stomach after the Brewers fell to the Pirates 7-1 on Thursday night to fall to 2-11 in their last 13 games.
``I know we're going to be fine,' Gomez said. ``This is a problem that can be fixed because we have good players. It's tough now, though. It's embarrassing. We have a lot of expectations on this team and we're not playing up to them.'
Not in the slightest.
Milwaukee squandered a couple of chances to jump on Pittsburgh starter Francisco Liriano. The Brewers went just 1 for 5 with runners in scoring position, a constant during the final three games - all losses - of the four-game series.
``When you're not scoring runs, it's hard to get motivated as a group,' manager Ron Roenicke said. ``We need to grind out some runs and get going.'
Hiram Burgos (1-2) allowed three runs on eight hits in five innings, walking three and striking out three. He had little trouble until the fifth, when Starling Marte beat out an infield hit. Burgos threw to first a couple times to keep the speedy Marte in check then sent an 85 mph fastball to Travis Snider that the Pittsburgh outfielder deposited into the Allegheny River for his first homer in nine months.
``I know who is running but at the same time I have to do a better job of executing my pitch, too,' Burgos said. ``The most important thing is the pitch and I threw a fastball up and down the middle of the plate and he put a good swing on it.'
Snider finished 3 for 5 with three RBI. Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte, Garrett Jones and Russell Martin had two hits for Pittsburgh. Liriano (2-0) allowed one run on six hits over 5 2-3 innings, striking out seven and walking three.
``I just try to stay calm, not try to do too much, hit my spot and just focus on location,' Liriano said. ``Pitching is all about location. I'm locating my fastball a lot better and my slider is working for me so far.'
While Milwaukee is wobbling, the Pirates are surging. Pittsburgh moved to 24-17 with the win, matching its best start through the first quarter of the season in 21 years. The 1992 Pirates also began the season 24-17 and finished with 96 victories while capturing the NL East. It's also the last time Pittsburgh finished the season with a winning record.
The romp capped a dramatic turnaround in one of baseball's most lopsided rivalries. Milwaukee has dominated the Pirates over the last six years, coming into the series 71-25 against Pittsburgh since 2007.
Milwaukee won the opener on Monday before the Pirates responded with a 4-3 win on Tuesday in 12-innings. A 3-1 victory followed on Wednesday before Thursday's romp, the first time the Pirates have won three straight against the Brewers in the same series since Aug. 16-18, 2009.
Liriano, who signed a two-year free agent contract in the offseason, sparkled in his home debut. The veteran lefthander missed the season's first six weeks while recovering from a broken right arm. He sailed through his first start, an 11-2 romp over the New York Mets last Saturday.
Things were a little tighter this time around. The Brewers pushed a run across in the first on an RBI-single by Jonathan Lucroy, an inning that could have been bigger if leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki hadn't been gunned down trying to steal second after a leadoff walk and McCutchen didn't rob Ryan Braun of extra bases with a leaping grab at the wall in center.
The veteran lefthander seemed to settle down immediately. He struck out four straight batters at one point and worked out of a trouble spot in the fifth when Jonathan Lucroy flied out to left with two on to preserve a 1-1 game.
Snider broke the tie in the bottom of the inning but Milwaukee had a chance in the sixth after Clint Barmes bobbled a potential double-play ball at shortstop. Reliever Justin Wilson came on with two outs and retired pinch-hitter Aramis Ramirez on a fly to left with two on and two outs to preserve the lead for Liriano.
The Pirates broke it open in the sixth off reliever Alfredo Figaro, ripping off five straight hits to score four runs and stake the franchise to its best start in 21 years.
NOTES: Four-time All-Star reliever Francisco Rodriguez, called up from Triple-A Nashville early Thursday, struck out one batter during his perfect one inning of work. To make room for Rodriguez, INF Taylor Green (hip) was placed on the 60-day disabled list and C/1B Blake Lalli was optioned to Triple-A Nashville ... Milwaukee travels to St. Louis Friday. Wily Peralta (3-3, 5.40) faces Jaime Garcia (4-2, 2.88) ... Burgos picked up his first major league hit in the third inning with a flare to right field off Liriano.
The Associated Press News Service
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