CHICAGO -- It was just a week ago tonight that the Pirates grabbed a dramatic victory in Los Angeles to run a winning streak to four games and make their record 7-6.
"Weird," Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit said.
"Things can go from good to bad in a heartbeat," left fielder Jason Bay said.
Things definitely seem bad for the Pirates today.
Last night, they lugged home a five-game losing streak, during which they were outscored, 48-12. Their record is 7-11 after a 13-6 blowout loss to the Chicago Cubs yesterday at Wrigley Field.
"It's extremely frustrating," Doumit said. "We're better than this."
That remains to be seen, of course.
"It seems like we're a streaky team," Bay said. "It's just that the losing streaks are lasting a little longer than the winning streaks. That makes it tough to catch up."
"This game doesn't feel sorry for you," first baseman Adam LaRoche said. "It will eat you alive if you let it. It can be pretty relentless. Things are not supposed to fall our way right now. It's tough. It's a grind to get out of it."
- Game: Florida Marlins vs. Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: RHP Matt Morris (0-2, 7.02) vs. LHP Mark Hendrickson (3-1, 3.97).
- Key matchup: The Pirates' left-handed batters vs. Hendrickson, who has limited opposing lefties to four hits in 24 at-bats in his four starts. Also, maybe it wouldn't hurt to give right-handed batting Chris Gomez a start against Hendrickson. Gomez lifetime is 6 for 18 against him.
- Of note: Hendrickson, who beat the Pirates April 5 in Miami, is 3-0 in his three April starts. In 17 2/3 innings, he has allowed 14 hits and four earned runs. A win and he becomes a candidate for the National League pitcher of the month award.
Better starting pitching and defense are two factors that would help the Pirates.
Yesterday, Zach Duke pitched only four innings a day after Tom Gorzelanny lasted just 21/3.
"We need our starting pitching to step up a little bit and give us a little more of a chance," manager John Russell said. "If you get behind the 8-ball too often, you're asking a lot of your offense."
The Pirates made two more errors yesterday to run their major league-leading total to 24.
"Shocking," said LaRoche, shaking his head. "Shocking. I don't know what's gotten into us."
The feel-good moments from yesterday's game at Wrigley Field for the Pirates can be dispensed with quickly.
Nate McLouth opened the game with a single into right field to extend his hitting streak to 18 games, the longest by a Pirates player to start a season since Al Oliver had an 18-gamer in 1972.
Pirates pinch-hitters yesterday went 3 for 3. Doumit hit two solo home runs.
And Phil Dumatrait, who pitched 21/3 innings Saturday, pitched two more yesterday.
"A nice save for our bullpen," Russell said.
The Pirates started the game encouragingly with singles from McLouth and Freddy Sanchez that placed runners on first and second. But Bay hit into a double play and LaRoche bounced to first.
The Cubs, who are 6-0 against the Pirates, then steadily built a 5-0 lead against Duke, who allowed eight hits.
"Zach's been pitching really well," Russell said. "He just didn't have command. Balls started flying to the wall, and they were getting good swings with two strikes. Obviously, they're swinging the bats very well."
The Pirates did make a game of it for a half-inning in the fifth.
Cubs starter Ryan Dempster had retired 11 consecutive batters before Xavier Nady had a leadoff single in the fifth. One out later, Jose Bautista doubled Nady to third. Brian Bixler was hit by a pitch.
Pinch-hitter Doug Mientkiewicz singled in Nady. A four-pitch walk to McLouth forced in a second run. Bixler scored on Sanchez's roller wide of third base. Bay walked on four pitches, bringing up LaRoche, who was in a 5 for 49 slide as he stepped to the plate.
"I'm going to be the guy up with the bases loaded," LaRoche said. "I'm going to be the guy up with guys on base. That's just the way it is."
LaRoche battled but wound up striking out on an inside breaking ball.
The game rapidly became a mess for the Pirates in the bottom of the fifth with Franquelis Osoria pitching.
Geovany Soto, who's 13 for 25 against the Pirates this season, singled. Ronny Cedeno doubled him home. LaRoche misplayed pinch-hitter Mike Fontenot's bouncer for an error that permitted Cedeno to score. Reed Johnson's infield hit moved Fontenot to second.
Ryan Theriot's bunt single resulted in an out when Fontenot was caught rounding third base too far. Derrek Lee bounced to shortstop, but the Pirates got only the force at second. Sanchez's relay to first bounced past LaRoche, and Johnson scored.
Aramis Ramirez, who had four RBIs, capped the inning with a two-run home run into the left-center field bleachers on a 1-2 pitch.
That made the score 10-3, and the Pirates were done.
"We couldn't control the crash," Doumit said. "When it rains, it pours."
First Published April 21, 2008 4:00 AM