PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates entered Tuesday having won each of their past nine games and 10 of 11 games started by fill-in starters.
Both spurts came to an end because of a three-run Philadelphia sixth inning.
Jonathan Pettibone pitched neatly into the sixth and the Phillies denied Pittsburgh its first 10-game winning streak in nine years with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.
“There’s no guarantee, obviously, you’re going to win every game when you’re up here,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, whose team still has the major leagues’ best record at 51-31.
“You never like to lose, but we weren’t able to meet some of the demands that were there for us tonight to get some runs.”
Phillies slugger Ryan Howard ended an 0-for-22 slump (12 strikeouts) with an RBI single in a three-run sixth to open the game’s scoring.
Howard and Michael Young each had two hits for Philadelphia, which scored all of its runs against Pirates rookie spot starter Brandon Cumpton.
Cumpton (0-1) got the ball because Jeff Locke was forced to warm up in the bullpen during the 14th inning Sunday.
Cumpton was charged with three runs on six hits and a walk with three strikeouts in 5 2-3 innings.
“He continues to come in and throw strikes and be aggressive,” Hurdle said. “Other than (two at-bats that ran up his pitch count), it was quick, it was efficient and it was sharp through five.”
For the second time in three major league starts, though, Cumpton ran into trouble during the sixth after a solid five innings. He allowed more baserunners in the sixth than he did through all of the first five innings.
“I got in a groove early on; the third time through the lineup is definitely a lot tougher,” said Cumpton, 4-6 with a 4.16 ERA in 14 games in Triple-A and Double-A this season. “I fell behind a little bit and left some pitches up. I didn’t make my pitches and they put them in play and made me pay.”
Domonic Brown followed Howard’s RBI single with a sacrifice fly and Delmon Young made it 3-0 when he doubled in Howard.
Those were the first earned runs allowed by Pittsburgh pitchers over a span of 22 1-3 innings. Before the sixth inning Tuesday, the Pirates had allowed one earned run over the previous 36 innings.
Pittsburgh lost for the second time in 12 games started by either Cumpton, Jeanmar Gomez or Phil Irwin. Cumpton and Irwin have spent the majority of the season in the minors and Gomez in the Pittsburgh bullpen.
Pettibone (4-3) won for the first time since May 14, a span of nine starts, by limiting Pittsburgh’s offense to Garrett Jones’ homer in the sixth. In 5 2-3 innings, Pettibone gave up three hits.
“He was good but it was hot and he kind of ran out of steam,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. “He did his job and stuff like that.”
The rookie right-hander was lifted after Jones’ shot, his eighth of the season. Philadelphia’s much-maligned bullpen repeatedly worked around trouble for 3 1-3 scoreless innings to finish off the Phillies’ second win over their past five games.
Jake Diekman got the final out of the sixth and Phillippe Aumont survived four well-hit balls to pitch a scoreless seventh. J.C. Ramirez, Antonio Bastardo and Justin De Fratus worked around two walks and a single in the eighth. Jonathan Papelbon improved to 16 for 20 in save situations with a perfect ninth.
But little else during the victory came easy for the Phillies, who began the day 9 1-2 games back in the National League East. Philadelphia relievers, who entered Tuesday with the worst ERA in the NL, allowed six baserunners over the 2 1-3 innings not pitched by closer Papelbon.
None scored, though. De Fratus struck out Jordy Mercer swinging with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth.
“I thought, ‘Bring in the righty (the) thing to do,’ when you look at the stats,” Manuel said. “Mercer’s hitting .400 with four home runs against lefties. That’s what I thought we should do, bring in the right-hander.”
NOTES: The Pirates optioned INF Josh Harrison to Triple-A Indianapolis to make roster room for Cumpton. ... Locke will start today’s game, RHP Gerrit Cole starts Thursday and Gomez will return to the bullpen for the Pirates. ... Pittsburgh RHP A.J. Burnett, on the disabled list since June 13 because of a right calf strain, threw a simulated game Tuesday. ... Phillies RHP Kyle Kendrick will make his next scheduled start Saturday at home against the Atlanta Braves. Kendrick was evaluated Tuesday in Pittsburgh and cleared, two days after sustaining a concussion after being hit in the head with a pitch. ... Locke allowed two hits over six shutout innings of a 2-0 win at Philadelphia on April 23. LHP John Lannan, who starts Wednesday for the Phillies, is 1-4 in his career against the Pirates.