MILWAUKEE -- Pirates right-hander Jose Ascanio barely had enough time on the mound to enjoy his long-awaited return, but that was a circumstance he manufactured for himself.
After throwing his first Major League pitch since August 2009 in the fifth inning of a 5-2 loss to the Brewers on Friday, Ascanio threw just 11 more -- including 10 strikes -- for a surgical 1-2-3 fifth inning. It was a landmark moment for a reliever making the long journey back from shoulder surgery.
Ascanio teamed with Daniel Moskos and Chris Resop for four scoreless innings in relief of James McDonald. Ascanio, who was recalled on Wednesday, impressed his manager during the outing.
"He was very efficient, very sharp," said Pirates skipper Clint Hurdle after the game. "It's nice to get Danny back out there, and Mosk got out of a bit of a wiggle. He had to get a good hitter out to finish that inning, and I thought Resop bounced back nicely. It was a little challenge in that inning to get Braun after the hit-and-run single put runners at first and third with one out. I was very pleased with the way the bullpen pitched."
The three relievers combined to allow zero runs on three hits. Moskos and Resop both stranded runners at third base, but there was never any threat against Ascanio, who struck out Casey McGehee and Corey Hart before inducing a groundout to short by Yuniesky Betancourt.
The 26-year-old Venezuelan had arthroscopic surgery performed on the shoulder by Dr. James Andrews in October 2009 after spending time on the disabled list for the final month and a half of the season. He missed all of 2010 while recovering.
Ascanio has appeared in 35 career big league games with Atlanta, Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Miller Park remains house of horrors for Bucs
MILWAUKEE -- It's a jarring statistic, and even Pirates manager Clint Hurdle thinks so. After the Bucs' 5-2 loss on Friday night, the club is 3-31 at Miller Park since 2007.
"Shocked, because of the length and the volume," Hurdle said prior to the game.
This is a different team than the Pirates squads that have left Milwaukee licking their wounds the past several seasons. With an 11-9 road record -- Pittsburgh won its 11th road game last season on June 30 -- and series victories in all but one of six attempts this year, the Pirates may finally be ready to exorcise the demons of Miller Park. Pittsburgh has lost seven consecutive games inside the stadium after back-to-back wins last April.
"There's only a couple guys around here that have been around that long. There's guys here that have no clue," Hurdle said. "I'm not going to grab them and say, 'By the way, one time we lost 22 games in a row here.' Sometimes, these guys, when you think they're informed, they're not informed on certain things. It's like anything: you look for good, you find good. You look for bad, you find bad. It's not like guys are going to dig into history and wonder how many games they've lost in a row here."
Pirates field full lineup, including McCutchen
MILWAUKEE -- The Pirates fielded their full lineup in their 5-2 loss to the Brewers on Friday, moving past the hiccups that characterized the team's recently completed series at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Neil Walker had overcome the flu bug that held him out Wednesday, going 1-for-4. Andrew McCutchen was back in center field and leading off after getting benched by manager Clint Hurdle prior to Thursday's rainout. He was hitless.
Don't expect McCutchen to be out of the lineup when the Dodgers and Pirates make up that contest, which will start from square one on an as-yet-unannounced date. He was held from the starting lineup by Hurdle as punishment for not running out a ball on Wednesday.
"[Dodgers manager Don] Mattingly tried to ask me if there was carryover, and if it was still in effect when we played again," Hurdle said with a smile. "We're going to move on."
Hurdle said teams can do what they can to limit the spread of the flu should a player become afflicted, but there's only so much that can be done.
"We came out of San Francisco one time where 20 of our 25 players periodically in a five-day stretch got the flu," Hurdle said. "You try to keep them somewhat separated and make sure they wash their hands ... you do the sensible things. At the end of the day, germs are spread."
Chris Snyder started Friday at catcher -- going hitless in three at-bats -- even though the switch-hitting Ryan Doumit may have represented a more typical fit against Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo.
"There's a number of things involved," Hurdle said about his process to determine a starting catcher. "We're putting in pitcher's ERA, we're looking at their matchups with the opposing pitcher, taking into effect offensive numbers against right-handed or left-handed pitching. ... We're not trying to over think it, we just look at everything to make sure we're not missing anything glaring and go from there.
"Then we look at each pitcher's individual skill set. At the end of the day, there are some skill sets that match up with catchers better than other catchers."
Doumit has enjoyed a great deal of success against lefties this year, hitting .429 (6-for-14). He entered the year with a .256 career average, but five of his six hits this year have gone for extra bases -- including two homers.
Paul finding sea legs in first weeks with Bucs
MILWAUKEE -- Xavier Paul struck out in a pinch-hitting appearance on Friday for the Pirates, but the reserve outfielder has been given his fair share of starts since Pittsburgh claimed him from the Dodgers on April 26. In five starts, Paul has gone 7-for-21 with a triple, two RBIs and three stolen bases as he filled in primarily for an ailing Jose Tabata.
"From day one when I found out these guys claimed me, I was excited," Paul said. "I had a couple friends already with Joe [Beimel] and [James McDonald] and a bunch of other guys I've been playing against since rookie ball. I knew coming in I'd be more of a role player, giving an occasional day of rest to 'Tabby' and Andrew, and maybe Garrett [Jones]. To get those couple surprise starts, that was exciting for me, because I hadn't had many at-bats during the season. I had a little bit of success and was able to help the team; I was very happy."
Paul only had 11 at-bats in seven games with the Dodgers before he was designated for assignment and picked up on waivers.
"For me, especially in the Minor Leagues, I was used to playing every day," Paul said. "I'm still learning to be more of that role guy and pinch-hitter. Starting those four or five games was more familiar and a little bit easier for me to find my rhythm at the plate."
Pirates reliever Evan Meek was slated to throw a bullpen session Friday afternoon, and if all went to plan, manager Clint Hurdle expected Meek would depart on a rehab assignment to Triple-A Indianapolis as early as Saturday.
Pirates farmhand Justin Wilson tossed 6 1/3 innings of no-hit ball and ultimately allowed just one hit in seven scoreless frames during a 9-6 win for Indianapolis Thursday against Durham. Wilson, a fifth-round Draft choice in 2008, saw his ERA drop to 2.36 for the year.
Elsewhere on the farm, 2010 first-round choice Jameson Taillon was slated to make his fourth professional start Friday night for Class A West Virginia. Taillon has allowed one run in his last two starts (9 IP) with 11 strikeouts.
Lyle Overbay, who spent two seasons with the Brewers from 2004-05 before getting traded to Toronto, sits in the top 10 all time among batters at Miller Park in doubles (45, T-8th) and hits (161, 12th).
J.R. Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.