NEW YORK -- On the bright side, only 17 games remain.
That offers only 17 more chances for the Pirates to pitch poorly, hit little more than glaring mistakes, drop routine throws, muff ground balls right at infielders, miss cutoff men and ... well, just about everything else they did with such painful familiarity in allowing the New York Mets to somehow prevail, 8-7, Wednesday night at Citi Field.
Paul Maholm was handed a 5-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning, more runs than the offense had produced in any of the previous three games. But, before he could record three outs, it was a 7-5 deficit, thanks in part to comical sequence of defensive misplays that doled out five unearned runs.
Maholm's line: Seven runs, two earned, over 3 2/3 innings.
His season: 7-15 with a 5.36 ERA, most of his numbers little different than those of Zach Duke, currently being considered for removal from the rotation.
The manic fourth inning saw 11 total runs, and a violent momentum shift.
The Pirates scored four times in the top half, all after New York's rookie starter Jenrry Mejia exited in the third because of a strained shoulder muscle. And the latter probably was pivotal, considering the offense had mustered all of one run in the past 36 innings off opposing starters.
Pedro Alvarez, in a 1-for-15 slump, hit an RBI triple. John Bowker, in a 1-for-21 slump since being promoted, doubled him home. Four batters later, Andrew McCutchen's two-run single into right made it 5-0.
Then, it got ugly ...
After one out in the bottom half, Maholm gave up back-to-back singles, followed by Ike Davis' RBI double smashed just by the backhand try of second baseman Neil Walker. A walk and a Mike Hessman single, and it was 5-2.
Ruben Tejada bounced sharply to Alvarez, who fired home from just 50 feet away for what should have been a routine forceout, but Chris Snyder failed to catch it. It ticked off his glove, caromed to the backstop, and two runs scored.
That was the third time Snyder failed to catch an infielder's throw home since his arrival July 31, the second in less than a week including the 12th-inning muff that lost the game Friday in Cincinnati.
If that were not enough, Joaquin Arias, the next batter, rolled a ball right at shortstop Ronny Cedeno. He failed to pick it up for another error and another run to tie the score. One out later, Angel Pagan's two-run single put the Mets ahead, 7-5.
Daniel McCutchen gave up Jose Reyes' solo home run in the eighth to make that 8-5.
Ryan Doumit's pinch-hit RBI double in the bottom half pulled the Pirates within two, and Andrew McCutchen's first-pitch home run to open the ninth cut it to one.
McCutchen went 2 for 4 with three RBIs.
The franchise's worst season in a half-century saw the record fall to 48-97, three losses shy of 100. The team has used more players, 51, than it has victories.
Looking for another bright side?
That record is the worst in Major League Baseball by an increasingly comfortable margin, now 6 1/2 games behind the 55-91 of the Seattle Mariners, the next-worst team. That makes a clinching of the No. 1 draft pick next summer a looming lock.