NEW YORK -- For whatever else befell these freefalling Pirates in their 6-3 loss to the New York Mets last night at Shea Stadium, there were these two words to provide no small amount of cushion afterward:
"No pain," Tom Gorzelanny said.
Gorzelanny, the Pirates' finest starter this season, was forced to exit after 2 1/3 innings because of left shoulder stiffness, the sort of thing that tends to raise roaring red flags in the baseball community. But he was adamant afterward that he experienced none of the discomfort that accompanies an arm injury, and that the feeling yesterday was isolated.
"It just feels like middle-of-the-year stiffness," Gorzelanny said. "There's no sharp pain or any kind of pain. It just felt all night like it was ... not loose."
And he had no previous issues with his throwing shoulder?
"No. I've felt great all year, in fact."
Manager Jim Tracy said no medical tests are planned for Gorzelanny. Rather, he will pitch his regularly scheduled bullpen session tomorrow in Philadelphia, after which a further determination will be made.
"We're going to be very careful," Tracy said. "We're just going to see how he's feeling the next time he throws and go from there."
So, what happened?
"I don't know if it was the way I woke up or if it was just one of those days," Gorzelanny said. "I know that you don't want to be stiff when you're facing this team. Unfortunately, I was. And I paid for it."
That started with a tight warmup and continued into a three-run New York first inning, one in which he allowed two walks and two doubles.
His fastball was flat, and most pitches were elevated.
Gorzelanny told Tracy and pitching coach Jim Colborn of the stiffness after that inning, but he also told them he wanted to go back out to see if it would loosen. A 1-2-3 second was encouraging.
But the Mets' first six batters of the third reached safely. The last three recorded hits on just four pitches, capped by Damion Easley's RBI single that made it 6-0.
That was enough. A brief meeting on the mound, including athletic trainer Brad Henderson, resulted in Gorzelanny being escorted to the dugout.
"We weren't going to take any more chances," Tracy said.
"I could have kept going," Gorzelanny said. "But the fact was there really wasn't any point because I had no idea where the ball was going."
That showed not only in the ugliest line of his young career -- six earned runs, seven hits, three walks -- but also in his throwing only 30 of 59 for strikes.
In addition to leading the Pirates' staff with a 9-6 record and 3.55 ERA, Gorzelanny has been their busiest, too, with 134 1/3 innings in his first full season of Major League Baseball. That might help to explain the "middle-of-the-year stiffness" he described.
So might this: He has topped 100 pitches 12 times in his 21 starts, including 112 five days earlier against the Houston Astros. In his seventh and final inning that night, he threw a taxing total of 33 pitches to escape a bases-loaded jam.
Moreover, Gorzelanny and three others in the rotation -- Shane Youman, Ian Snell and Paul Maholm -- were pushed ahead a day because John Van Benschoten was skipped Sunday. That scratched an extra day of rest for all four.
Gorzelanny's departure pretty much sealed the outcome, but there were other distractions along the way to the Pirates' 10th loss in 11 games since the All-Star break.
Distraction No. 1: Shawn Green, New York's first batter after Gorzelanny was replaced by Tony Armas, hit a sinking liner to left and, as replays showed conclusively, Jason Bay made a shoestring catch. Trouble was, third base umpire Larry Vanover ruled the ball in play.
Bay's throw went to second for a forceout but, had it been ruled a catch, the Pirates could have had an inning-ending double play.
Tracy, who seldom loses his cool, blew his top ... literally.
After all four umpires briefly conferred to confirm the call, Tracy slammed his cap to the infield grass as he and Vanover argued, taking only seconds to get ejected for just the second time this season.
"Jason clearly caught the ball," Tracy said. "That's all I have to say."
Distraction No. 2: Bay continued his mini-outbreak from a six-week slump by taking Tom Glavine deep in the fifth, a two-run shot to left that pulled the Pirates within 6-3. It was Bay's third home run in two nights, and the RBIs were his seventh in three games.
Is he out of it?
"I'm not going to say that after just a couple days," Bay said. "But I can say I'm seeing the ball better. A lot better."
Distraction No. 3: Salomon Torres hit the Mets' Lastings Milledge in the hip with a sixth-inning fastball, marking the second time the Pirates have plunked Milledge since his show-boating routine while rounding the bases Tuesday.
Shawn Chacon brushed him back in the eighth, too.
Not much else came of that, though. New York closer Billy Wagner hit Nate McLouth in the ninth, but that struck McLouth's wrist on a check swing.
Maholm, owner of the Pirates' lone victory since the break, will try to foil the Mets' sweep this afternoon.Ed Betz, Associated Press
Pirates manager Jim Tracy argues with umpire Charlie Reliford after being ejected in the fourth inning last night against the Mets at Shea Stadium in New York.
Click photo for larger image.
Game: Pirates (LHP Paul Maholm 6-12, 4.57) vs. New York Mets (LHP Oliver Perez 9-6, 3.00), 12:10 p.m., Shea Stadium.
TV, radio:FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Key matchup: Perez vs. his emotions. One can imagine he will be plenty fired up this afternoon and, as the Pirates know well, he is best when under control.
Of note: This might be one time when the Pirates' overly aggressive approach at the plate pays. Perez has reached a three-ball count against only 9 percent of the 524 batters he has faced.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at email@example.com .