All summer long, Ross Ohlendorf has been able to shrug off his lousy luck.
Not Monday night.
The Pirates' best pitcher of late was diagnosed with tightness and soreness in the back of his right shoulder after facing just two batters in the 10-2 trouncing by the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. He will have an MRI this morning at Allegheny General Hospital to determine the nature and severity of the injury.
To see and hear him afterward, it was clear he was concerned.
"It's a little bit sore," Ohlendorf said. "We don't really know what's wrong yet. Hopefully, it's just a muscle and not in the shoulder."
There was no further word or estimate on how much time might be missed, but shoulder issues generally are seen as more serious for pitchers even than elbows, and management surely will be cautious, particularly with only five weeks left in a long-lost season.
The lone positive in the injury might be that the discomfort was felt in the back of the shoulder, where a major injury generally is less likely than in the front. Ohlendorf expressed hope that the affected muscle -- if it is, in fact, a muscle and not a ligament -- would be the lat that runs across the upper back.
Game: Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (7-12, 4.92) vs. RHP Adam Wainwright (17-7, 2.06).
Key matchup: Wainwright vs. mortals. He has allowed four earned runs over his past four starts.
Of note: The Pirates have won nine times this season when scoring two or fewer runs, most such victories since 10 in 2004.
Ohlendorf has no history of shoulder trouble.
He would make only eight pitches, a full-count walk and a broken-bat single by Jon Jay. He then awkwardly moved off the mound, prompting manager John Russell and athletic trainer Brad Henderson to spring from the dugout. After no more than 20 seconds of discussion, Ohlendorf was out.
"We don't know much," Russell said. "He just said he felt it warming up a little bit, and he couldn't get over it during the first couple hitters. He felt a little stiffness and thought it would loosen up and it never did."
"It didn't feel great, but I felt like I could pitch through it," Ohlendorf said. "Kind of got worse a little bit with each pitch."
Consider it adding injury to insult: Ohlendorf, who lost April to a stiff back and was struck in the head by a line drive in July, was charged with yet another hard-luck loss to fall to 1-11 despite a 4.07 ERA, including a terrific 2.35 ERA over his previous 10 starts.
"I feel so sad for Ross," shortstop Ronny Cedeno said. "He works so hard, and he's pitching so well. And nothing really is going his way."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the most recent pitcher in Major League Baseball history to have one or fewer wins, 11 or more losses and an ERA under 4.07 was the New York Mets' poor Anthony Young Sept. 11, 1993, when he was 1-16 with a 3.77 ERA.
It also was the fifth-fewest pitches thrown by a starter charged with a loss since 1988.
Best bet to replace Ohlendorf, should he go to the disabled list, is Charlie Morton, who pitched six scoreless innings for Class AAA Indianapolis Monday after skipping a start to a mildly sore elbow. In 13 starts since being demoted, Morton is 4-4 with a 3.83 ERA.
Sean Gallagher relieved Ohlendorf and, as if warming up from being ice cold is not cruel enough, Albert Pujols promptly destroyed his first pitch for a three-run home run, deep beyond center into the home bullpen. It was Pujols' 33rd home run, the 399th of his magnificent career.
Gallagher then gave up a double, walk and Yadier Molina's RBI single that made it 4-0 before an out finally was recorded 22 minutes into the game.
"It's a tough inning to come in," Russell said. "You've got first and third with Albert Pujols up. He settled in and gave us some innings."
Gallagher wound up charged with five runs in 4 1/3 innings of emergency duty.
It was 7-0 by the time the Pirates broke through in the sixth: Neil Walker tripled off the Clemente Wall, and Garrett Jones followed with his team-best 18th home run that nearly left the stadium, striking the stone wall at the edge of the upper riverwalk. The latter snapped an 0-for-15 drought.
Only other bright spot: Jose Tabata added three hits -- his 51 since the All-Star break ranks second in the National League to the 58 of the Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro -- but the Pirates were held to two or fewer runs for a seventh consecutive game, the worst such streak all season.
The darkest spot, aside from the injury: Pujols was due up in the ninth with bases loaded, and St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, in a clear show of mercy for the Pirates and reliever Justin Thomas, sent up pinch-hitter Bryan Anderson instead.
And the crowd of 12,393 booed.
And Anderson, naturally, drilled an RBI single to right to make it 10-2.
The Pirates' worst season in a half-century is 16 losses shy of 100 at 41-84. And never mind 100: They have to go 12-25 to avoid 110 losses. That might seem academic for a normal team, but this one is 7-24 in its past 31 and showing not the tiniest trace of becoming competitive soon.