CHICAGO-- There are days, even though it's baseball, when a manager just has to punt.
Like yesterday for John Russell.
The Pirates' manager made that decision at some point between his team falling behind, 7-0, in the third inning and trailing, 11-1, in the sixth.
It mattered not at all that the Chicago Cubs wound up winning, 13-1, at Wrigley Field.
"One of those days," Russell said. "Nothing about this game is going to bother me. We got our butt kicked. You can't dwell on a game like this. You have to put it behind you.
"Once the game starts to get away from you, you try to get what you can out of the game. We're not just going to roll over and play dead and wait for the next game."
- Game: Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (0-0, 2.89) vs. RHP Ryan Dempster (2-0, 2.37).
- Key matchup: Pirates left-handed batters against Dempster, who has limited lefties to three hits in 27 at-bats this season.
- Of note: For all his travails the previous two seasons, Duke has continued to pitch well against the Cubs, particularly at Wrigley Field. In six career starts in the Friendly Confines, Duke is 3-2 with a 2.14 ERA, having allowed only 10 earned runs in 42 innings.
And so Russell got some extra guys an at-bat or two. He used relief pitcher Tyler Yates for the first time since Monday. Did the same with closer Matt Capps. He even found an inning for Rule 5 pitcher Evan Meek.
And he thought of "teach points" to discuss with coaches Gary Varsho, Tony Beasley and Jeff Andrews immediately after the media left his office.
Those teach points will be relayed to players today.
"This is a building process," Russell said. "The work we did in spring training is not going to stop."
Among the teach points discussed were the 10 walks the Pirates handed the Cubs and some pitch selection decisions that Russell thought dubious.
Starter Tom Gorzelanny began making this a fourth-and-long afternoon for the Pirates in the first inning. With one out, Ryan Theriot singled through the middle. Derrek Lee, who later would leave the game because of a stiff neck, lined the next pitch into the left-center field bleachers for his seventh home run of the season and his seventh hit in 11 career at-bats against Gorzelanny.
Gorzelanny did strike out Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome to end the first inning promisingly.
That promise went poof in the second and third innings.
Gorzelanny gave Mark DeRosa a leadoff walk in the second. DeRosa scored on a double by Geovany Soto, who's 6 for 9 lifetime against the left-hander, and the Cubs led, 3-0.
Russell began assembling his punt team after the Cubs blew open the game with a four-run third.
Ramirez drew a one-out walk. Fukudome singled on a 1-2 pitch, moving Ramirez to third. DeRosa's single to left scored Ramirez.
Fukudome and DeRosa worked a double steal, and Fukudome scored when catcher Ryan Doumit's throw zipped to the infield side of third base and into left field. DeRosa scored on a wild pitch, and pitcher Jason Marquis drove in the fourth run of the inning -- and finished Gorzelanny -- with a double to right.
"He didn't have good stuff," Russell said. "His command was off, and they made him pay."
"I felt good. I felt strong," Gorzelanny said. "But balls were getting left up and they were getting good pitches to hit. When I got the ball down, they hit it on the ground. When it was belt high, they put it in the air."
The lone bright spot of the increasingly fog-shrouded afternoon for the Pirates was that center fielder Nate McLouth extended his hitting streak to 17 games with a two-out double in the fifth inning. He scored on a double by Freddy Sanchez.
McLouth's streak is the longest by a Pirate to begin a season since Al Oliver hit safely in the first 18 games in 1972. McLouth's streak is the longest by a Pirate at any point in a season since Sanchez had another 17-gamer to end the 2005 season.
"Nate's been phenomenal," Russell said. "He's probably the catalyst for our team right now. He's fun to watch."
The rest of the afternoon was not fun.
First Published April 20, 2008 4:00 AM