Jones' 16th home run continues remarkable two-month run for rookie
August 31, 2009 8:00 AM
Morry Gash/Associated Press
Brewers starting pitcher Jeff Suppan looks home as the Pirates' Garrett Jones rounds the bases after hitting a home run during the third inning yesterday in Milwaukee.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
MILWAUKEE -- So, the Pirates lost to Milwaukee, 4-1, yesterday at Miller Park.
What else is news?
Sure, this one had a chance to different: Ross Ohlendorf, their hottest pitcher, was taking the mound. And the lineup would have Ryan Doumit back at cleanup after his two-day benching, as well as Ronny Cedeno after missing a week to a fractured finger.
As first baseman Garrett Jones put it, "I thought this was going to be the day."
Ohlendorf allowed a funky three-run fifth inning, and the Pirates' offense mustered no more than another Jones home run for a franchise-record 21st consecutive loss in any road city, as the Brewers finished a three-game sweep an ... well, never mind.
• Doubleheader: Pirates vs. Cincinnati Reds, 1:10 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., Great American Ball Park.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh for second game only, WPGB-FM (104.7) for both.
• Season series: 4-4.
• Pitching: First game, RHP Daniel McCutchen (major league debut) vs. RHP Kip Wells (0-3, 5.85). Second game, LHP Paul Maholm (7-7, 4.59) vs. RHP Johnny Cueto (8-10, 4.61).
• Key matchup: McCutchen vs. overthrowing. Before becoming Class AAA Indianapolis' best pitcher, he would find trouble by putting too much on his 90-92 mph fastball and missing spots.
• Of note: This doubleheader, forced by an April 10 rainout, is the Pirates' first of the season. They split their lone doubleheader in 2008, with the Atlanta Braves.
Why not focus on another facet from yesterday, one that promises to be far more important in 2010 and beyond?
Which is to say: How about that Jones?
His 16th home run, a solo shot in the third off Jeff Suppan and into the second deck beyond right field, was part of an unblemished 2-for-2 day in which he singled and walked twice, raising his average to .296.
Today in Cincinnati will mark the end of his first two months with the Pirates, his only other taste of Major League Baseball having been 31 games with the Minnesota Twins in 2007, and it has been a remarkable run:
• His home run total is two higher than the franchise rookie record over back-to-back months, set in 1958 by Dick Stuart.
• He had 10 in July to get named National League rookie of the month and surely will be in consideration with six this month.
• He averages a home run every 12.3 at-bats, a pace that would make a Hall of Famer blush and one that projects to 48 over a full season.
Just about his only two shortcomings have been a .232 average against left-handers and a .140 average with runners in scoring position. Even there, though, five of his home runs have come off lefties, and it is hard to question Jones' clutch given a walkoff 14th-inning home run and the two-run shot that beat the Philadelphia Phillies last week.
"Garrett's just been really good for us," manager John Russell said after the game yesterday. "Really consistent, too."
And that might be the part that means the most, given that baseball is built on consistency: Jones batted .310 in July and is at .283 for August. Seventeen RBIs then, 14 now. Seven doubles then, six now. Eight walks then, 13 now.
This despite opponents pitching him plenty tough, as the Brewers did all weekend.
"They're not giving him a whole lot to hit," Russell said. "He has to be patient, keep making the adjustments, and he's going to be a dangerous hitter."
Losing in one placeThe Pirates’ current streak of losing 21 in a row in Milwaukee is the fifth-longest in Major League history of one team losing in a given road city:StreakYearsWinning teamLosing team261952-54ClevelandSt. Louis/Baltimore251929-31St. Louis CardinalsCincinnati Reds221949-50Boston Red SoxPhiladelphia Athletics221930-32St. Louis CardinalsPhiladelphia Phillies211936-38Pittsburgh PiratesCincinnati Reds212007-nowMilwaukee BrewersPittsburgh Pirates201889-91New York GiantsPittsburg Alleghenies201903-04Boston AmericanWashington SenatorsSource: Elias Sports Bureau
"I'm seeing a lot more offspeed now and, if I do see a fastball, it's up or in just to show me something," Jones said. "I just have to wait for a good pitch to hit. Trust my swing. Don't be too anxious. And take the same approach every time up."
And how does he feel about all this early success, albeit at age 28?
"Honestly, I still feel like I've got to get better with guys on base, do more to help the team that way. There are things I'm working on, and I hope to get better at a lot of them."
Anyway, back to the game ...
Jones' home run nullified one by Milwaukee's Casey McGehee in the second, and the Pirates had chances for more early: With runners at second and third and nobody out in the second inning, Andy LaRoche swung at the first pitch and popped up. Bases would get loaded, but Ohlendorf bounced into a double play. Andrew McCutchen came up with bases loaded in the fourth, and his first-pitch groundout ended that one.
Both of those came off Jeff Suppan, who had been 0-4 with a 6.70 ERA in his previous nine starts for the Brewers but was allowed off the hook to go six innings.
"We've got to do a better job in those situations," Russell said. "We've got some young hitters, and they want to make something big happen when they go up."
The Brewers broke out in the fifth: McGehee plopped a fluky single just beyond the mound and, after an out, Jason Kendall doubled and an intentional walk loaded the bases for Suppan. Ohlendorf's full-count walk to his counterpart put Milwaukee ahead, 2-1.
"That was pretty bad," Ohlendorf said.
After a second out, Craig Counsell's two-run soft looper into left made it 4-1.
"I feel like I pitched well," Ohlendorf said. "It was kind of a weird inning."
The Pirates, perhaps mercifully, do not visit Miller Park again until next year, having gone 0-9 here in 2009. The most recent victory came May 3, 2007.
Loss No. 21 broke the franchise record for consecutive losses in a road venue, that being the 20-game streak the 1889-91 Pittsburg Alleghenies had against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds. The longest such streak in major league history is 26, that belonging to the 1952-54 St. Louis Browns/Baltimore Orioles against the Indians at Cleveland's Municipal Stadium.
Russell, who has little use for talk of streaks, on that topic: "I don't have an answer for that. It's a lot of games."