Loss nothing short of embarrassing

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Manager Clint Hurdle called the Pirates' performance in their 4-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox Sunday "disappointing."

I'm thinking "embarrassing" is a more appropriate word.

Sure, every team is going to have a few rotten games when it plays 162. But this was especially hideous. The Pirates couldn't throw the ball accurately. They couldn't field it cleanly. They couldn't even stand up on two legs and run straight without falling down.

Embarrassing, I tell you.

Big picture, this still was a terrific weekend for the Pirates. Let's not lose sight of that. They took two out of three from a team that came in as the American League's best. They also played in front of the largest, second-largest and fifth-largest crowds in PNC Park history. It will be a long time before anyone can wipe that smile off owner Bob Nutting's face.

It was a terrific home stand, actually. The Pirates started it with two wins in three games against the Baltimore Orioles, making their moving celebration of their 1971 World Championship team that much better. It made for a 4-2 week in interleague play for a franchise that has been, by far, baseball's worst at it (79-129) since it started in 1997.

But that doesn't ease the frustration from Sunday. A season-high four errors gave the Red Sox three runs, and a base-running blunder cost the Pirates who-knows-how-many runs. Bottom line, the Pirates had a chance to go three games over .500 for the first time this season and blew it.

Great pitchers generally field their position well. I think of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, who won 355 games, four Cy Young Awards and a record 18 Gold Gloves. Pirates pitchers James McDonald and Daniel Moskos didn't field the position well Sunday, and it cost them and their team big time. McDonald threw what should have been a double-play ball into center field in the sixth inning. Moskos failed to handle a sacrifice bunt in the seventh. Those errors helped the Red Sox score their final three runs without so much as one hit. That's no way to win a game, no way at all. The Pirates don't hit well enough to cover for those mistakes. They especially can't survive against a powerful Red Sox team that leads the majors in runs.

Earlier, a throwing error by Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen handed the Red Sox their first run. McCutchen has the look of a future star, but he had better find a way to control his arm. He routinely overthrows cutoff men. This time, his throw to third base soared high and long.

New third baseman Chase d'Arnaud had the Pirates' final error in the ninth inning. It didn't cost any runs but typified the team's day. He fielded a ground ball and tried to beat the runner from second base to third base for a force out only to trip and fall. I'm pretty sure he would use the word "embarrassing" to describe that play. It was a shame because he played great defense otherwise in his first three games in the big leagues.

Since Day1, Hurdle has preached about the importance of giving the other team just 27 outs. "Pitching and defense put you in the best position to win a game," he has said often. For the most part, his players have paid attention. Not during this home stand, though. They made 10 errors that led to six unearned runs in the six games. They were lucky to go 4-2.

Despite the mistakes in the field, the Pirates still might have won Sunday if not for their base-running blunder in the fifth inning when they had a 2-1 lead. Third-base coach Nick Leyva waived Garrett Jones home on a single to left field only to change his mind at the last instant. That was too late for Jones, who was tagged out as he tried to get back to third. Instead of having the bases loaded with no outs, the Pirates had runners on first and second with one out. They failed to add to their lead when Neil Walker struck out, and Matt Diaz flied out to right field.

"We've got to hold ourselves to a championship level of execution," Hurdle said. "Today, we didn't meet that. We didn't play well enough to win."

There is some good news to report.

This loss was bad enough that it should count as five in the loss column, but it only counts as one. The Pirates will take a 39-38 record into their game Tuesday night at Toronto. They have lost 13 interleague road games in a row.

It's nice to think the Pirates will end that streak against the Blue Jays.

It's nice to think they'll throw the ball accurately and field it flawlessly.

And, of course, it's nice to think they'll get where they're going without falling down.


Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com . Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.


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