The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH - The Pittsburgh Pirates were in position to end one of sports' most embarrassing streaks just six weeks ago.
Now, it doesn't look so good.
Andrew McCutchen hit a three-run drive for his 30th homer, but the Pirates blew a three-run lead in a 9-7 loss to the surging Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.
The stumbling Pirates (74-75) have dropped three straight and 11 of 13 to slip under .500 for the first time since May 29. They are in danger of a 20th straight losing season, which would extend their major North American professional sports record.
It's been quite the fall since they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 8 to move a season-high 16 games over .500 at 63-47.
Tonight: Pittsburgh Pirates at Houston Astros, 8:05 p.m.
Pitching matchup: Pirates LHP Jeff Locke (0-1) vs. Astros RHP Edgar Gonzalez (2-1)
"It's hard to believe," Pirates right fielder Garrett Jones said in an otherwise silent clubhouse. "You think back to all the excitement. We were in the pennant race. The fans were fired up. It's hard to believe how much it's changed. It's really disappointing."
Pittsburgh trailed 4-0 against Milwaukee, but managed to rally for a 7-4 lead. But it all fell apart for the Pirates during the Brewers' four-run eighth.
Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura opened the inning with consecutive singles off Chad Qualls. Norichika Aoki doubled in a run with one out and Rickie Weeks greeted Chris Resop (1-4) with a triple to the 410-foot mark in left-center.
Ryan Braun was intentionally walked before Aramis Ramirez bounced a single into center field to give Milwaukee an 8-7 lead.
The Brewers have won five straight, eight of nine and 15 of 19 to climb into the playoff race. They remained 2 games back of St. Louis for the second NL wild-card slot.
"We're doing everything right, right now," said Ramirez, who had three hits and three RBIs. "I played on a couple of really good teams in Chicago (with the Cubs) but we started off the season really well. We've kind of made a late push here. Hopefully, it's not too late."
The Brewers added a run in the ninth on pinch-hitter Logan Schafer's single.
Clint Barmes also homered for Pittsburgh, and Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez each had two hits.
"I wish I had an answer for why we're struggling," Barmes said. "Everything was clicking for us for so long and it seemed like we were doing all the little things right to win games. Now it's not clicking and it just seems like nothing is going our way."
Manny Parra (2-3), the fifth of seven Brewers pitchers, tossed a scoreless inning for the win. John Axford got three outs for his 31st save in 39 chances, working around an error by rookie shortstop Segura.
The Pirates scored three runs in the sixth to take a 7-4 lead. Barmes hit his eighth homer, Marte singled in a run and Travis Snider had a sacrifice fly.
Milwaukee got off to a fast start, but Pittsburgh managed to put together a quick response.
Ramirez hit a two-run homer off Wandy Rodriguez in the first, then doubled and scored in the third.
McCutchen's drive off Mike Fiers in the bottom half trimmed Milwaukee's lead to 4-3. Pinch-hitter Alex Presley then tied the game with a run-scoring fielder's choice in the fourth.
Rodriguez allowed four runs and five hits in four innings. The left-hander was 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA in his previous four starts.
Fiers gave up three runs and five hits in three innings. The rookie is 3-4 with a 6.75 ERA in his last eight starts after going 6-4 with a 1.82 ERA in his first 12.
Game notes: Pirates 2B Neil Walker returned to the lineup after sitting out two of the previous three games with lower back soreness. ... Brewers 1B Corey Hart played for the first time in 10 days: He had been sidelined by a torn plantar fascia in his left foot. He went 1 for 3 and was pulled after five innings to rest. ... Pittsburgh begins a three-game series at Houston on Friday night while Milwaukee opens a four-game series at Washington. Pirates LHP Jeff Locke (0-1, 5.49 ERA) will look for his first major league win when he faces Astros RHP Edgar Gonzalez (2-1, 4.40 ERA). RHP Shaun Marcum (5-4, 3.91 ERA) will pitch for the Brewers against Nationals RHP Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.89 ERA).