Collier: Rodriguez a hot mess

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So who was that hot mess at center stage Wednesday night on the North Side?

That would be your Wandy Rodriguez, a little lefty who was thought to be just what the Pirates' fading rotation needed as the summer headed toward real urgency.

Full disclosure: I thought so, too.

But this show, this fourth start in a Pirates uniform by a guy who cost Neal Huntington three prospects near the trade deadline, three prospects just to pry him loose from the Houston Disastros, this was the raw political opposite.

This was precisely what the Pirates didn't need in a game when they would be all but stripped of their wild-card credentials, among several other indignities.

Yes, Neil Walker dislocated his finger toppling over a Dodgers baserunner five minutes after the first pitch, and yes, Pedro Alvarez then came in cold off the bench and proved he's always ready to turn in a four-strikeout game, but this was Wandy's night.

What a fright.

Rodriguez went to the rubber with next to nothing that would resemble tempo, resolve, competitiveness, stuff, competence or, frankly, even interest.

His main preoccupation seemed to be getting a new baseball from home-plate umpire Bill Welke, who kept accommodating him. The stats will show he threw 106 ill-chosen pitches, but he must have thrown various baseballs toward the plate at least 130 times.

Naturally, the Dodgers went after him like they had just finished watching their latest DVR of Shark Week. The first five hitters in Don Mattingly's order went 8 for 15 against Rodriguez with four RBIs and four runs scored.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle didn't help when he elected to pitch to Matt Kemp with runners on second and third and two outs in the fourth, a defensible stratagem had it not been for about three things:

Thing 1) Kemp was hitting .451 against left-handed pitching at game time, better than even Andrew McCutchen's corresponding figure.

Thing 2) Rodriguez had already allowed eight hits.

Thing 3) The Pirates had just tied the score, 1-1, in an atmosphere in which they hadn't had so much as a lead all week (they still haven't).

"It wasn't too soon to walk him," Hurdle said.

"It was something we'd talked about with Kemp and [Hanley] Ramirez being next to each other in the order. Kemp hits about .200 against Wandy and Ramirez hits about .400. Wandy is one of the few lefties in the league with decent numbers against Kemp. So to walk him to get to a guy hitting .400 against him, I wasn't comfortable with that.

"But it didn't work."

So Kemp doubled in two, then Ramirez doubled in Kemp, and that made it 5-1. When the Dodgers score five times, they're 45-3.

By the time Wandy was finished he had ravaged his Pirates ERA to tawdry 5.47. He has allowed 30 hits and 15 earned runs in 242/3 innings.

"That pitch to Kemp was just a microcosm of his night," Hurdle said.

"He threw the right pitch, just missed on location."

Rodriguez insisted he made a good pitch to Kemp, and that the Dodgers hit a lot of soft balls. Or was it softballs?

That the Pirates have lost his past three starts is one thing management has to deal with as an awful homestand draws to a merciful close today, but the fact that Rodriguez further lost the audience Wednesday night should be considered equally as aggravating.

Rodriguez is no hitter -- he was 1 for 42 when he came to the plate with one out in the third -- but that at-bat incensed a high-spirits crowd of 26,522. Rodriguez broke his bat on a slow grounder to third, then barely pretended to run to first.

Let's drop all pretense, ok?

Starting pitchers generally don't run hard on grounders in the post-modern game. It's beneath their station and their value to the team.

That's their view, and it's somehow tolerated. But most of them at least pretend to run. This half jog by Rodriguez didn't meet even that standard, and Pirates fans let him know it.

Good for them.

They are laying out hard-earned cash to support a team that hasn't won in 20 years, and here's a 1-percenter who will make nearly $50,000 an inning this season who won't even pretend he's running out a grounder.

Rodriguez's final pitch hit second baseman Mark Ellis with two outs in the sixth, which was when Hurdle removed him rather than watch him face Kemp again. Rather than simply take the ball, Hurdle should have pointed Rodriguez toward the bullpen, where he can spend the next seven weeks and let this rotation fend for itself.

But you don't like to show people up in this game. Hurdle clapped, took the ball and Rodriguez pretty much ran to the dugout.

Sure, now he runs.

Got in there before his ears got blistered again.

Wasn't a sprint actually. The only sprint was Wandy's trip to the head of the please-take-me-out-of-the-rotation class that includes just about everybody but A.J. Burnett.

With ample help from the bullpen, the Pirates have allowed at least five runs in nine consecutive games.

Burnett, 14-4, goes at 4:05 p.m. today. Unlike you got Wednesday night, you may expect a professional pitching performance.



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