Herrera demoted after latest starter flop

Pirates' pitchers walk 10, Andy LaRoche hurt in 13-7 clubbing by Arizona

PHOENIX -- The truly remarkable aspect of the Pirates' 13-7 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks last night at Chase Field might have been this:

Ryan Doumit survived.

He was the poor guy behind the plate for 165 mostly painful pitches that included 79 balls -- an average of 9.9 over the eight innings worked -- and accounted for 10 walks, one shy of the team's season high that was set April 7 in a 12-inning game. Four of those walks came on four pitches, three led off an inning and six came around to score.

And, as always, the story starts with the starter.

In more ways than one.

Yoslan Herrera lasted 1 1/3 innings, removed mercifully by manager John Russell after giving up three runs on four hits and three walks. He threw 34 pitches, 20 for balls, and three times crossed up Doumit.

  • Game: Pirates vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m., Chase Field.
  • TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
  • Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (4-9, 5.27) vs. RHP Brandon Webb (15-4, 3.03).
  • Key matchup: Maybe no one is better than the brilliant Webb, and he does not exactly drop off against the Pirates: He is 4-0 against them, with a 2.41 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings.
  • Of note: It has been less than two months since these teams met at PNC Park for that four-game split, but the Pirates have nine different players this time: Denny Bautista, T.J. Beam, Jason Davis, Craig Hansen, Yoslan Herrera, Jeff Karstens, Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss and Steve Pearce.

That earned him an immediate option back to Class AA Altoona afterward.

"He didn't pitch well," Russell said. "He was just all over the place."

Herrera generally has shown good control in the minors, but his 9.82 ERA in five starts with the Pirates was accompanied by 12 walks in 18 1/3 innings.

What happened?

"It's just a bad day," he said through an interpreter. "I have to have better command, think better. I'm going to learn from this."

The Pirates will make a corresponding move today, and that could be the return from Class AAA Indianapolis of Tom Gorzelanny, who pitched six-plus innings and was charged with three unearned runs last night in Buffalo, N.Y. In five starts since his demotion, he is 1-1 with a 2.01 ERA, 17 strikeouts and three walks -- none last night -- in 22 1/3 innings.

It also is possible that the move will not involve a pitcher.

Third baseman Andy LaRoche last night strained his right thumb on his final swing. Although X-rays did not detect a fracture, the injury was there previously, he said afterward, and might require some rest. If so, infielder Brian Bixler could get the call, and a pitcher could come later.

At any rate, help will have to come from somewhere at some point.

The Pirates' starters, by far the worst in Major League Baseball as per nearly every meaningful statistic, have begun to take a palpable toll on the rest of the staff, as was evident again last night: When Herrera left, Jason Davis did an adequate job in limiting Arizona to two runs over 3 2/3 innings, but Denny Bautista was slammed for six hits and two walks in 1 2/3, Tyler Yates for five runs while getting one out, and John Grabow for one at the end.

Those pitchers have fared mostly well when rested.

"I think we've got one of the better bullpens in our league," first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said. "But we started putting those guys in long situations early on, and bad things happen as you get deeper in the season. We burned these guys out."

He put his head down and shook it.

"Bottom line: Your starter's got to give you a shot."

Yates had another good excuse: He was pitching on the first day back after accompanying his wife for the birth of their first child, daughter Kamryn.

"Been a crazy time," Yates said.

The pitching matchup looked terribly lopsided with Dan Haren going for Arizona, but the Pirates pounced for three runs in the first, Doumit's single bringing one and Brandon Moss' double to deep center two more.

After Herrera allowed Arizona to tie, the Pirates regained a 4-3 lead in the third when Mientkiewicz clubbed Haren's first-pitch fastball beyond right field for his second home run, first since May 16.

The blast was greeted with the classic silent treatment from the dugout, everyone looking the other way as Mientkiewicz returned.

His response: He pretended to high-five people on the way down the steps.

Mientkiewicz and Freddy Sanchez, after a week off to relax back spasms, each had three hits. Mientkiewicz's season average is up to .282, thanks to a 17-for-45 surge. And he appears to be performing better when he starts, batting .339 the past 30 times his name was in the lineup.

"I'm feeling pretty good up there, trying to take advantage of my time," he said.

Jason Michaels' home run in the seventh pulled the Pirates within 6-5, but Mark Reynolds answered in the bottom half with one off Bautista. Bautista would be tagged with another run, followed by the rest.

Even after it was 13-5, the offense kept coming with two in the ninth.

But ...

"We've said all along that we have to pitch better," Russell said. "When we do, with the things we've seen our offense and bullpen can do, good things are going to happen."

The Pirates' 455 walks are the most in the National League, third-most in Major League Baseball.

Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . First Published August 5, 2008 4:45 AM


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