Lineup whiffs 13 times, wasting another strong Duke start in 3-1 loss
August 16, 2009 8:00 AM
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Starting pitcher Zach Duke delivers during the first inning of Saturday's loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CHICAGO -- This time, the Pirates gave up only two runs in the first two innings, as opposed to two touchdowns.
It still was too much.
Zach Duke pitched 7 1/3 characteristically cool innings, but the offense remained ice cold in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs yesterday at Wrigley Field: There were five hits in all, including three singles and the solitary run during recently traded Tom Gorzelanny's five innings.
The Pirates struck out 13 times, eight against Gorzelanny, who never has been known for the K.
"We just need to relax a little, I think," shortstop Ronny Cedeno after going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. "We're trying too hard right now, all of us. We need to swing at good pitches, get to hitters' counts."
Neither happened: Nine of the Pirates' outs came on the first two pitches, even though Gorzelanny -- who most of them had watched for years in Pittsburgh or in the minors -- is known to labor through high pitch counts. Moreover, they flailed at several of his high fastballs that followed changeups, another familiar pattern.
"I've always thought that the pitcher had the upper hand when going against his old team," Gorzelanny said. "I just went out there and pitched my game."
• Game: Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Ross Ohlendorf (10-8, 4.30) vs. RHP Rich Harden (7-7, 4.30).
• Key matchup: Could be a good day to load up the lefties. Harden has held right-handed batters to a .219 average, compared to .251 from the other side.
• Of note: The Pirates are 3-15 in their final game of a road series, the so-called "getaway" game.
Gorzelanny got the victory in his hometown debut with the Cubs. He grew up in nearby Orland Park, Ill.
What did the Pirates think?
"He was all right," manager John Russell said. "We swung at a lot of high pitches. And we had one good opportunity that we didn't do much with."
That came in the fifth, when two walks and Duke's bunt single loaded the bases. Nobody was out, and Chicago's lead was 2-0.
Andrew McCutchen blistered a ball to center, but it was caught for a sacrifice fly. Lastings Milledge struck out swinging under a high fastball, and Garrett Jones lined out to deep right to end it.
"Cutch just missed, and Jones just missed," Russell said.
"We had to do something there," McCutchen said.
Duke was charged with three runs and nine hits in pitching at least seven innings for the 15th time in 24 starts, but he fell to 9-11 despite a 3.42 ERA. In those 11 losses, the Pirates have scored a total of 14 runs.
"Zach did a great job," Russell said. "He's been doing that a lot this year. It's just unfortunate we don't score many runs when he pitches."
One look at Duke's worn expression afterward made it bitingly clear this tale is getting stale.
Was he disappointed again?
"Yeah, but that's the cards that have been dealt, so ... it's fine," he replied. "I kept it close."
He sounded most miffed about a visibly blown call in the first inning by second base umpire Mike Reilly.
With runners at first and second, Chicago's Jake Fox bounced to second baseman Luis Cruz for what should have been an inning-ending double play. Rather than go for the force at second, Cruz tried to tag Derrek Lee running past him. Lee dodged the tag but did so by running no fewer than 5 feet into the infeld grass. Remarkably, Reilly did not rule that Lee was out of the baseline, and only an out at first was recorded.
Russell argued briefly.
"He said Lee hadn't left the basepath yet," Russell said.
What did that mean?
"I don't know."
Jeff Baker followed with an RBI single.
"That run in the first never should have scored," Duke said. "I've never seen a guy be allowed to run on the infield grass and not be considered out of the baseline."
The next inning, Gorzelanny's two-out, broken-bat RBI shot through the box made it 2-0.
"Lucky," Gorzelanny called it.
"I'll hear about that," Duke said.
Friday, the Cubs led, 14-0, after the same span and went on to a 17-2 rout.
Yesterday, solely because of Duke, the Pirates stayed close, but Baker's home run leading off the sixth put Chicago up, 3-1. And, with the way the Pirates are swinging the bats, that might as well have been 17-2.
Delwyn Young's pinch-hit double in the ninth was the only one of their five hits to go for extra bases, just the third extra-base hit during this latest four-game losing streak. The Pirates have yet to homer in the first five games of this road trip despite playing in hitter-friendly parks here and in Denver.