Four-run frame plagues Quinn Priester in Pirates’ 4-3 loss to Brewers

MILWAUKEE — It looked like Quinn Priester was going to avoid the big inning. Instead, he delayed the inevitable for a frame.

Despite Priester stranding runners at the corners in the first inning Tuesday night at American Family Field, the Brewers tagged him for four runs in the second en route to the Pirates losing, 4-3.


In the inning, the Brewers recorded at least one hit against every one of Priester’s offerings, save his seldom-used change-up. Five straight batters reached, including Sal Frelick hitting a two-run homer off a hanging slider by Priester. Although not particularly well-struck, Frelick’s fly ball kept carrying out to Milwaukee’s short porch in right field.

It was the seventh home run Priester has given up in five starts, and 19th long ball against in an MLB career that started last July. Although Priester allowed four singles in the five at-bats following Frelick’s homer, he soon settled in to retire nine straight.

His sinker was particularly effective, as Priester induced plenty of ground balls, nine in total on the night. It allowed him to rebound from a rocky first two innings in which the Brewers recorded eight of their nine hits, which was one shy of Priester’s career high.

The Pirates hurler even weaved his way out of traffic in the fifth and sixth innings, stranding three baserunners in the process. But since the Pirates scored two runs or fewer for the 17th time in 26 games, Priester needed to be perfect, or at the very least closer to it.

It wasn’t much of anything new for Priester, however; in his previous four starts, the Pirates had scored a combined one run. They tripled that total, but it wasn’t enough for the Pirates, who fell back to five games under. 500.

Kyle Nicolas was outstanding in relief of Priester, the lone exception being when Christian Yelich flared a single down the left field line. Nicolas, who had an ugly outing when struggling to find the strike zone during Paul Skenes’ debut last Saturday, was much more efficient against the Brewers.

The fire-balling right-hander loaded the zone with his fastball, and recorded back-to-back swinging strikeouts with his four-seam in the seventh. He even returned for the eighth, striking out two more batters to set a new career-high in a game with four.

For a Pirates bullpen that’s been reeling in recent weeks, Nicolas’ performance was a noteworthy bright spot.

It took until the fourth inning for the Pirates to record their first hit off Brewers starter Joe Ross, with Oneil Cruz doubling to right to lead off the frame. Cruz was thrown out at third trying to advance on a fielder’s choice, but that proved irrelevant when Nick Gonzales homered to left.

The four-bagger, Gonzales’ first of the season, came on an elevated two-strike fastball that badly missed location. Gonzales, who was 1 for his previous 11 with three strikeouts, was right on time for Ross’ offering.

Aside from Gonzales’ blast, there was little to brag about offensively for the Pirates, who had scored a combined 23 runs in their previous three games. Instead, 15 straight batters were retired before Connor Joe’s solo shot with two away in the ninth made it a one-run game.

Of course, Frelick making a couple sensational catches in center didn’t hurt. He came in on a liner to rob Triolo of a single in the second, and ranged deep into left-center to take away at least a double from Andrew McCutchen.

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