Yovani Gallardo's befuddling start to the 2013 season continued Sunday with another start cut short by an extraordinarily high pitch count.
Gallardo needed 94 pitches to get through just four innings as the Brewers ultimately fell to Pittsburgh, 5-4, at Miller Park.
"A lot of pitches in four innings," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "His ball/strike count wasn't his usual again but I thought his stuff was good ... it's surprising when I think he has good stuff and he struggles to get through four innings like that."
In five May starts, Gallardo is 0-4 with a 5.53 ERA. He took the loss Sunday -- his fifth of the year -- after allowing four runs on five hits and two walks while striking out seven.
"I felt a lot better than my last start against the (Los Angeles) Dodgers," Gallardo said. "I felt like I was locating the ball down and away to the righties and going in whenever I needed to. It was just one of those weird days where everything felt good. Throwing changeups for a strike -- when have you guys ever seen that from me?
"It's just frustrating. Go out there and have pretty good command of all your pitches and the results aren't there. It's just a matter of moving forward. It seems like we've been saying that for quite a while now, but there's not much you can do. I can't control what happens after I let go of that ball, throw that pitch."
Jordy Mercer put the Pirates on the board in the second with a triple to score Michael McKenry.
Starling Marte led off the third with double and later scored on Garrett Jones' sacrifice fly to left. Pedro Alvarez, a day after hitting two home runs, put the Pirates ahead 4-0 with a two-out, two-run double to right before McKenry struck out to end the inning.
By that point, Gallardo (3-5) was already at 71 pitches and, after needing 23 pitches to get through the fourth, gave way to a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning.
"We've got to get him headed back in the right direction and back to where we are comfortable and used to seeing him," Roenicke said.
Pirates starter Wandy Rodriguez (6-2) retired seven of his first eight batters before putting two on in the third inning. Yovani Gallardo singled and moved to second on a throwing error by Pedro Alvarez that also allowed Norichia Aoki to reach on a fielder's choice.
Jean Segura grounded into a force at second, putting runners at the corners for Ryan Braun who ended the inning with a strikeout.
Milwaukee finally got to Rodriguez in the fifth. Rickie Weeks led off with a base hit and with two outs, Aoki and Segura had back-to-back singles, loading the bases for Braun.
Braun doubled, cutting the lead to 4-3, but was stranded at second when Aramis Ramirez struck out to end the inning.
"We're going to swing the bat better," said Roenicke, whose team has been held to three runs or fewer in eight of its last 12 games. "At least today, with the main opportunity, we did get the double and drive them in. But we didn't have a whole lot of opportunities."
Rodriguez went five innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts, winning for the sixth time this season.
"He didn't have his best stuff out there today," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "But we got it done."
After dropping the opener Friday, Pittsburgh won the last two and took a series in Milwaukee for the first time since June 2012 while pulling into a second-place tie with Cincinnati in the National League Central, a game behind St. Louis.
"We're getting a little bit better," said Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. "We got on top and stayed on top. It's a good way to finish this series."
The Pirates added an insurance run in the sixth when Michael McHenry scored on Sterling Marte's sacrifice fly to center, putting Pittsburgh ahead, 5-3.
Milwaukee drew within a run in the eighth after Jeff Bianchi scored on Gomez's sac fly, but Jason Grilli worked a perfect ninth to record his major league-leading 20th save of the season.
NOTES: The Brewers selected the contract of RHP Donavan Hand from Triple-A Nashville before the game. Hand replaces Jim Henderson, who went on the disabled list Sunday with a strained hamstring. To accommodate Hand on the 40-man roster, Milwaukee moved RHP Mark Rogers to the 60-day disabled list. ... Since allowing 12 runs at Miller Park on April 30, the Pirates have outscored their opponents 40-22 in their last eight road games. ... Milwaukee relievers have a 1.87 ERA over the last 18 games. ... The Pirates are 29-0 this season when leading after eight innings.
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