Pirates fall to Brewers 3-2
Milwaukee Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo returned from the disabled list Thursday night and pitched six shutout innings, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.
After putting up 48 runs in their previous five games and 15 runs Wednesday night, the Pirates bats were silenced in front of 18,175 fans. Neil Walker provided the only offense of the night, hitting a two-run double in the 7th inning to get the Pirates within one run.
The loss snapped the Pirates two game winning streak and the team fell to 34-61 on the season and 4-3 after the All-Star break.
Pirates starter Ross Ohlendorf suffered his 8th loss of the season. Ohlendorf though rebounded with a strong outing, going six innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits. Ohlendorf struck out six and walked one.
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI's in Thursday's loss, extending his multi-hitting streak to six games.
The 24 year old rookie is batting .320 with 3 home runs and 21 RBI's on the season. Walker's emergence has been a blessing in disguise for Pirates management who going into the season had written him off and never projected Walker to be a major league caliber second baseman.
The emergence of Walker has solidified the Pirates second base position which had previously been a major short-term and long-term issue inside the organization.
Getting the kind of consistent production from Walker at the second base position is pivotal to the Pirates building a competitive team beyond 2011 and in some eyes has accelerated the Pirates rebuilding project.
The question among scouts is whether 40+ games is a big enough sample. Walker's athleticism in the field and his ability at the plate has put to rest many of the doubts that have followed Walker, including members of the Pirates organization who have had their shares of doubts.
Pirates lacking in the marketing department
From a PR standpoint, some criticism heading the Pirates way has been their lack of marketing when it comes to Walker. The struggling franchise has a young marketable player with a good personality who by the way is a home-town kid.
The Pirates losing over the years and a lack of commitment to winning has led to the franchise suffering greatly from developing a young fan base. That's an avenue the Penguins have been able to exploit tremendously over the past 5 years due to their presence of young super stars Sidney Crosby and to a lesser extent Evgeni Malkin.
While the Pirates don't have a marketable star like a Sidney Crosby, few franchises in sports do, they do have young marketable players in Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker that the team needs to use to their advantage from a marketing standpoint.