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Ohlendorf torched in return to mound

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Ross Ohlendorf was blistered in his first major league start in four months, allowing seven runs (four earned) on 11 hits and two walks in five innings, as the Brewers demolished the Pirates 11-4 Tuesday night. Josh Harrison hit his first major league homer for Pittsburgh.

Tremors from a 5.8 magnitude earthquake in Virginia rattled buildings and nerves in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. But even the Richter Scale couldn't measure the seismic activity caused by the Brewers' bats as they rocked Ross Ohlendorf in his return to the majors.

Ohlendorf, making his first big league start since April 8 after spending four months on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder, was jarred for 11 hits in five innings pitched and watched the NL Central-leading club put up a seven spot in the second inning, taking advantage of hitter's counts and an errant throw by catcher Ryan Doumit.

"I think I was just overthrowing," Ohlendorf said, noting that his adrenaline was pumping as he warmed up in the bullpen. "I was really excited to get back today, but I was disappointed with how I pitched."

"Every hit that I think he gave up was on a fastball," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Location is critical. These guys can hit fastballs. If you don't have secondary pitches for weapons that you can throw, and you're not gonna pitch inside and use both sides of the plate, they're gonna swing. And they've been unloading the bat."

Former Pirate Nyjer Morgan tallied four hits, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder each reached base four times and Casey McGehee drove in three runs as Milwaukee cruised to an 11-4 win at PNC Park. The Brewers (78-53) improved to 10-1 against the Pirates this season. Milwaukee has outscored Pittsburgh (60-68) by a combined total of 63 to 28.

"This lineup is strong," Hurdle said of Milwaukee's offense, which ranks fourth in the NL in runs scored. "They've got a combination of speed and power, and then they've got some very versatile players on the bench that can pick up and move around as well. They're playing very good baseball right now, and they're confident all over the place."

Yuniesky Betancourt began the brutal second frame by doubling to the left field wall, and Jerry Hairston Jr. followed by blooping a single in between Neil Walker and right fielder Xavier Paul to put runners on the corners. Ohlendorf fell behind Jonathan Lucroy 2-0, and the Brewers' backstop then singled inside the right field line to score a run.

Estrada squared to bunt and Doumit grabbed the tapper as it rolled in front of the plate, but his throw to first sailed into foul territory, scoring Hairston and putting runners on second and third. After a Corey Hart fly out, Morgan hit an RBI single up the middle and Braun doubled off the bullpen fence in left-center field on a 3-1 count to bring make it 5-0 Milwaukee.

Fielder struck out, but McGehee pulled a fastball into the left field bleachers to stretch the lead to seven. The crowd of 21,411 gave Ohlendorf a mock cheer after he retired Hairston to end the frame.

Ohlendorf (0-1) allowed seven runs (four earned) in five frames, striking out three batters and walking two (one intentionally).

"I'm optimistic the way he was able to finish, to give us some length," Hurdle said. "He pitched with better downhill plane from the third through fifth inning and showed better fastball command. We'll give him the ball again and see if he can make some critical improvements. He's gotta command the fastball better, work down in the zone and we gotta have some secondary pitches to get people off the fastball."

Pittsburgh tacked on two runs against Estrada, as Paul singled to score Ronny Cedeno in the third and Josh Harrison hit his first major league home run on a solo shot in the fifth, but that's all the spot-starter allowed in seven innings pitched.

Estrada (4-8), who blanked the Bucs in Milwaukee on August 13, earned his second victory of the month against Pittsburgh by surrendering seven hits, striking out two and not issuing a walk. He recorded 11 ground ball outs while throwing a first-pitch strike to 20 of the 28 batters that he faced.

"He made pitches, and we weren't able to counter and fight back with a whole lot," Hurdle said. "We've got work to do."

Milwaukee added four more runs against the Pirates' bullpen. Fielder doubled off Daniel McCutchen in the sixth after Braun walked and stole second, and McGehee hit a sac fly off Chris Resop to score Morgan in the eighth. In the ninth, Resop allowed an RBI double by Morgan and a Craig Counsell sac fly, giving the Brewers their 11th score of the game.

The Pirates scored a pair off LaTroy Hawkins in the bottom of the eighth, with a Walker single bringing in Paul and Walker coming around on a Garrett Jones triple, but that barely made a dent in the Brewers' big lead.

While the Brewers again battered the Bucs on Tuesday, Josh Harrison did reach a milestone by hitting his first career home run in the majors. Harrison, a former Cubs farmhand acquired in 2009 who has shuttled between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis all season, clubbed a 3-2 fastball from Marco Estrada over the left field wall in the bottom of the fifth inning.

The Pirates placed utility man Steve Pearce on the 15-day disabled list with a broken right index finger and recalled infielder Pedro Ciriaco from Triple-A Indianapolis. Pearce, batting just .202/.260/.255 in 105 plate appearances, suffered the injury during Monday's double-header and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

Ciriaco appeared as a pinch-hitter on Tuesday, but he'll head back to Indy to make room on the roster for tomorrow afternoon's starter, Aaron Thompson.  

To make room for Ohlendorf on the roster, the Pirates designated LHP Joe Beimel for assignment on Tuesday. The 34-year-old Duquesne graduate, originally selected by the club in the 18th round of the 1998 draft, pitched for the Pirates from 2001-2003 and returned to Pittsburgh this past winter on a minor league deal.

Brought in to tame fellow lefties, Beimel's second stint with the Bucs has been sour. He began the year rehabbing a sore elbow and then served a lengthy DL stint with elbow inflammation from late May to mid-July. Beimel has allowed left-handers to bat .302, get on base at a .333 clip and slug .465 in 2011. Right-handers have pummeled him for a Jose Bautista-like .333/.408/.619 line.

The Pirates signed RHP Nelson Figueroa to a minor league contract. The 37-year-old right-hander allowed 33 runs in 29 innings pitched for the Astros this season, walking nearly as many hitters (16) as he struck out (17). He was designated for assignment in May and posted a 6.39 ERA at Triple-A before Houston cut ties with him last week. Figueroa was a swingman for the Pirates back in 2003 and 2004.

RHP Shaun Marcum (11-3, 3.40 ERA) squares off against LHP Aaron Thompson tomorrow afternoon at 12:35 p.m. A former Marlins and Nationals prospect, Thompson will make his MLB debut in the Pirates' injury-ravaged rotation. The 24-year-old lefty has a 4.63 ERA and a 60-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 95.1 minor league innings pitched this season, mostly at the Double-A level.

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