Offense AWOL again as Pirates fall to A's, 2-1

Hits, runs have disappeared quickly in four-game losing streak

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The Pirates' troubles at the plate continued Tuesday night, and their losing streak did, too.

Mustering only three hits, the Pirates dropped their fourth consecutive game, a 2-1 loss against the Oakland A's at PNC Park.

The Pirates have scored six runs in this losing streak and only one run in three of the four games They have lost six of their past eight games and three consecutive series.

"When you don't score runs, everything is always magnified in the game of baseball," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're trying to keep our guys confident, keep working early so we can play late, look for pitches to hit, try and build innings, all those types of things."

When Oakland starter Dan Straily wasn't striking out Pirates, they kept hitting the ball on the ground. Straily (6-2) pitched 61/3 innings and allowed one run -- a solo home run by Pedro Alvarez -- and two hits. He walked three and struck out seven.

"You want the best out of the other team," Pirates starter Gerrit Cole said.

"Any competitive person will say that. Straily threw the ball really well tonight. He gave up two hits, punched out a lot of guys."

Straily followed a terrific outing in his previous start, when he pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed only one hit against the Chicago Cubs.

Hurdle said the hitters don't need drastic changes, but need to reinforce their principles.

"There are some guys trying to make sure we stay through the ball better and use the big part of the field," Hurdle said.

"Part of what's going on now, especially the last two days, is that the pitchers we've faced have been very sharp. Their command has been very good, and their bullpen plays well.

"There's a reason they are in first place over there."

Cole (4-2) finished seven innings for the first time in his six-start major league career, but one pitch made the difference. Cole allowed two runs, both on a home run to former Pirate Brandon Moss, and five hits.

He struck out four and walked two.

Cole has not allowed more than three runs in any of his six starts.

The A's loaded the bases in the first, which began 1 hour, 42 minutes late due to storms in the area. Coco Crisp hit a two-strike single to left, and Cole walked Josh Reddick on four pitches. Josh Donaldson struck out and Jed Lowrie popped out to short. Yoenis Cespedes dribbled a grounder to the right side of the infield and barely beat Jordy Mercer's flip to Garrett Jones at the bag, loading the bases. Cole then struck out John Jaso swinging, pumping his arms as he left the mound.

"It was a big strikeout there, especially after Cespedes squibbed that one in there," Cole said. "It was a big pitch, it was a big out."

The A's took the lead with two outs in the fourth. The Pirates shifted to the right against the left-handed hitting Jaso. On the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Jaso poked a ball down the third-base line for a double. The next batter, Moss, homered over the Clemente Wall on the first pitch to put the A's ahead, 2-1.Cole had retired nine consecutive batters between the first and the fourth inning before Jaso's double.

Alvarez gave the Pirates their only run in the second. He hit a 0-1 changeup into the bushes in center for his 23rd home run this season.

The Pirates couldn't get much done after that. Starling Marte singled in the third and stole second despite a pitchout, but was stranded. Andrew McCutchen and Clint Barmes each drew a walk, but didn't advance past first.

Alvarez walked to start the seventh and Russell Martin bunted him to second. Lefty Sean Doolittle replaced Straily when Garrett Jones came to bat, causing Hurdle to send Gaby Sanchez up in Jones' spot. Sanchez struck out looking at a curveball.

"We're doing all the work and not getting the results," Hurdle said. "The challenges the season brings, this is what one of them is. We faced adversity with starting pitching, but when you play through it and get wins not much is made of it."

Francisco Liriano will start for the Pirates today as they try to avoid a sweep.


Bill Brink: and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published July 10, 2013 5:15 PM


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