Starter fares well again, but hitters blanked again on five hits
May 24, 2009 8:00 AM
Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press
Starting pitcher Ross Ohlendorf sits in the dugout after being pulled out of Saurday night's game against the White Sox during the eighth inning in Chicago.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CHICAGO -- Maybe it is a positive that the Pirates will face Mark Buehrle today.
This way, if the opposing pitcher mows them down yet again, they at least will be able to identify him without conducting a Google search.
As designated hitter Craig Monroe put it, "We're not hitting. Seems like, no matter the pitcher, no matter the count, no matter the situation, we're just not getting our bats on the ball."
This time, the opposing pitcher was Clayton Richard.
Richard, 25, is a solid prospect, to be fair, ranked No. 5 in Chicago's system by Baseball America entering this season. But opponents were batting .290, he struck out only 15 in 27 innings, and his ERA was 4.33.
And yet, all the Pirates mustered in his six innings were four hits, three of those singles, and two runners as far as second base. They also struck out eight times, nearly half of Richard's previous season total.
Three relievers finished it off, and the Pirates wound up with five hits and struck out 13 times, leaving them without a run in the past 20 innings while getting blanked on back-to-back nights and losing three in a row.
• Game: Pirates vs. Chicago White Sox, 2:05 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Jeff Karstens (1-2, 5.21) vs. LHP Mark Buehrle (6-1, 2.77).
• Key matchup: Expect to see Craig Monroe in the lineup again. He bats .341 -- 14 for 41 -- against Chicago's ace, with two home runs.
• Of note: Expect, too, to see Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth and maybe others running when possible. The White Sox, with A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate, have caught only two of 41 runners trying to steal this season.
Measuring fully the futility of those 20 innings, the Pirates:
• Are batting .119, with eight hits in 67 at-bats.
• Have struck out 23 times, more than once every three plate appearances.
• Have one extra-base hit, that on Freddy Sanchez's leadoff double in the sixth last night. He still was standing on that base at inning's end.
• Have one total hit from the top three in their order -- Nyjer Morgan, Sanchez and Nate McLouth -- in 25 at-bats. That, too, was on Sanchez's double.
• Have not set foot on third base.
All of which might beg the question: Might the Pirates be better off letting their pitchers hit in these interleague games?
To be sure, the pitchers are the only ones performing.
Ross Ohlendorf was the latest hard-luck loser, charged with four runs -- three earned -- and six hits over 7 2/3 innings. He fell one out shy of producing the remarkable scenario of pitchers getting consecutive complete games while both losting.
Zach Duke went the distance in the 2-0 loss Friday night.
"We're struggling again, for some reason, and it's funny how it all happens at once," manager John Russell said. "We're getting good counts. We're doing things right. Just not hitting the ball."
Others saw it the same way.
As the Pirates have most of the season, they stretched Richard's pitch count to 107 and chased the rookie. But they still are missing or fouling off or popping up or rolling over ...
"Things aren't going right," Morgan said. "Not for anybody."
Monroe and Morgan discussed that topic in the dugout.
"I was telling Nyjer, 'It's everybody, even Nate and Nyjer and Freddy.' But you're going to go through that," Monroe said. "We're still having a good approach. We're just not hitting it. That's why baseball's a beautiful game, where the ball is round and the bat's round, too."
He stressed his view that the competitive spirit still is there, no matter how non-competitive some of the at-bats appear.
"There's no reason to hang our heads. And hey, give these guys some credit who are pitching against us. This lefty tonight, Richard, he was throwing 95 with a nice changeup. You tip your cap."
One of Ohlendorf's runs was unearned, and another nearly qualified for that status.
Jermaine Dye opened Chicago's fourth inning by reaching on Jack Wilson's two-base throwing error. One out later, he scored on Paul Konerko's single into center.
The next inning, Chris Getz's sharp grounder to first baseman Adam LaRoche caromed off his glove and was ruled a single. One out later, Alexei Ramirez's second home run in as many nights -- this off Ohlendorf's first-pitch fastball -- made it 3-0.
Dye's solo shot in the eighth accounted for the final score.
"There were a couple pitches I'd like to have back, but I felt good," Ohlendorf said.
Ohlendorf would have had the complete game except that he walked Jim Thome with two outs in the eighth, and his pitch count was at a season-high 114.
The count for wasted good starts in this series is at two.
"That's the part that hurts," catcher Jason Jaramillo said. "These guys are giving us everything. Ross did everything tonight. Threw all four of his pitches where he wanted. Had a great sinker. But we didn't hit."