PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates were ready for Jimmy Nelson's curveball this time around.
Six days after baffling the Bucs for seven shutout innings in an easy win, the Milwaukee Brewers right-hander labored through five innings in a 6-3 loss on Friday night.
"There (were) a couple curveballs that just left too much middle," Nelson said. "They're big-league hitters and they did what they're supposed to do with it."
Nelson (1-1) struck out three while giving up three runs (two earned) and five hits. The Brewers have dropped three straight and are last in the crowded National League Central.
Khris Davis had his sixth career three-hit game for Milwaukee, but the Brewers left eight men on base and went just 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position. The Brewers had a chance to go back in front in the fifth when they put runners on the corners with one out. The threat ended when Ryan Braun grounded into a double play.
"We get those guys out there and we're not picking them up," manager Ron Roenicke said. "They get their guys out there and they're picking them up and that's the ballgame."
Nelson overwhelmed the Pirates in a dominant performance last weekend, needing just 88 pitches to throw a career-high nine strikeouts. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle promised a more patient approach this time around. Nelson breezed through his first trip through the lineup before the Pirates finally came alive.
Francisco Cervelli led off the fourth by taking a curveball to the rib cage. Gregory Polanco followed with a single and Cervelli ended Pittsburgh's scoreless drought at 22 innings when he came home on a groundout by Andrew McCutchen.
Starling Marte led off the fifth with an infield hit, stole second then scored on a single by Sean Rodriguez. Rodriguez followed suit, swiping and then scoring on a single to left by Josh Harrison to give Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead that Vance Worley and four relievers would not relinquish.
Worley (1-1) struck out six while allowing two runs on six hits. Mark Melancon got the final out for his first save.
Polanco went 3 for 4 for Pittsburgh and Marte added two hits, including a long two-run homer off reliever Jonathan Broxton in the eighth that broke open a close game.
The Pirates have sputtered during the opening 10 days as the offense that was supposed to be a strength has slouched out of the gate. Pittsburgh came in with the second-worst team batting average in the majors (.207) and managed just five hits total in back-to-back shutout losses to Detroit. But the Pirates got to Nelson then added on against Broxton.
Polanco singled with one out in the ninth, stole second, moved to third on a throwing error and scored on a single by Pedro Alvarez through a drawn-in infield that made it 4-2 before Marte hit a 451-shot to the second deck in left.
Broxton was charged with three runs in 2-3 innings and has now given up 23 runs in 14 1-3 innings at PNC Park. The two-time All-Star's ERA ballooned to 9.64 on the season.
"His stuff isn't there yet," Roenicke said. "His command isn't there. He's trying to get it locked in and he will. He's too good of a pitcher to not do it. We've got to stay away from the pitches that we elevate over the middle of the plate."
Brewers: All-Star outfielder Carlos Gomez's strained right hamstring landed him on the disabled list. Gomez left Wednesday's game in St. Louis with the injury and returned to Milwaukee to be examined. The leadoff hitter was batting .235 with a homer and six RBIs in eight games. Utility man Jason Rogers was recalled from Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Pirates: Pittsburgh activated catcher Chris Stewart off the 15-day disabled list and sent reserve catcher Tony Sanchez to Triple-A Indianapolis. Stewart missed the first eight games of the season with a strained right hamstring.
Brewers: Kyle Lohse looks to bounce back from a rare poor start against the Pirates when he faces Pittsburgh on Saturday. Lohse is 11-4 with a 3.81 ERA but was knocked around in a 10-2 loss last Sunday, giving up four runs in 6 1-3 innings.
Pirates: Second baseman Neil Walker returns to the starting lineup on Saturday. He was inserted as a pinch hitter on Friday while Rodriguez got the nod in his place, a planned move Hurdle said was designed to give Walker a little extra rest. Walker is a career .306 hitter against Lohse, his best average against any pitcher he's faced more than 30 times. Jeff Locke (1-0, 3.00) starts for the Pirates.
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