The St. Louis Cardinals wore out the Pirates outfielders Monday night at PNC Park.
Ball after ball caromed off the wall or bounced to the warning track as the Cardinals pounded away at James McDonald. McDonald failed to finish the second inning in the Pirates' 10-6 loss to the Cardinals, the second start in a row for McDonald where the opponent took advantage of him in the early innings.
McDonald finished 1 2/3 innings and allowed eight runs, three earned, on eight hits and two walks.
"There wasn't anything real crisp," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We just couldn't get the ball where he wanted to get it."
McDonald's fastball Monday topped out at 92 mph and sat between 89 and 91. He can hit 94. Entering the game, his average fastball velocity was 89.8 mph, according to Fangraphs.com, down from 91.8 in 2012.
Asked if he had any concerns about his health, McDonald said, "That's not a question I'm ... I'm looking more for in-game questions." He gave no reason for the loss of velocity.
Hurdle said he did not want to speculate on McDonald's loss of velocity.
"I haven't seen anything glaring, but we saw what you saw as far as velocity, finish, the command," Hurdle said. "There were some challenges out there for him, a number of them."
McDonald's performance added another variable to the pitching situation. Wandy Rodriguez missed a start because of a strained left hamstring, though he expects to make his next one. Jonathan Sanchez, who takes the mound today, is coming off a disastrous outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks in his previous start.
After seven innings of one-run ball in his first start of the season, McDonald struggled early in his second start, allowing four runs in the first inning April 9 to the Diamondbacks. He calmed down enough to make it through five innings and earn the win.
The Cardinals did most of their damage in the second inning, when they sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on five hits, four of which were doubles. David Freese walked with one out and had to stop at third when Pete Kozma's double one-hopped the wall. Lance Lynn grounded out before Jon Jay doubled for his second hit of the game, scoring two runs.
McDonald walked Matt Carpenter and induced a slow grounder to short from Matt Holliday. Clint Barmes made the scoop but the throw was off target, allowing a run to score and extending the inning. After three more hits, Hurdle had seen enough.
"You leave balls up in the zone, hitable pitches, good hitters are going to hit them hard," McDonald said. "I threw a lot of bad pitches."
Justin Wilson allowed two runs in 3 1/3 innings of relief and Bryan Morris pitched three scoreless innings.
The Cardinals had a chance at a big first inning, but baserunning errors limited the damage to one run. They led off with three consecutive hits, the third of which was a single off the right-field wall by Holliday.
The ball ricocheted past Travis Snider to Andrew McCutchen, who started a relay to the plate, but Carpenter and Jay held up at second and third. Holliday nearly had reached second before realizing Carpenter was still there and the Pirates caught him in a rundown.
Allen Craig grounded to third base, scoring Jay, but Carpenter ran to third and was out when Pedro Alvarez went to the bag after fielding the ball.
Lynn earned the win and allowed four runs on seven hits in five innings.
The Pirates offense produced six runs against a Cardinals pitching staff that did not allow a run in a recent three-game stretch. Neil Walker hit his first home run of the season in the third, scoring McCutchen and cutting the deficit to 10-4.
Marc Rzepczynski allowed the Pirates to rally in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Jose Tabata singled and Russell Martin took a pitch off his right foot to put two on with no outs. After Barmes flied out, Michael McKenry singled to score Tabata and Starling Marte singled to score Martin.
Rzepczynski retired Snider and McCutchen, stranding two on base and ending the threat.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published April 16, 2013 4:00 AM