Anyone for a Bring-Your-Own-Pitcher Night at PNC Park?
Starters are preferred, experience is welcome but not required, and a good health insurance policy is a must because of how viciously this particular opponent tends to strike the baseball.
Otherwise, hey, good luck out there.
The Pirates found out, quite painfully, how difficult it might be to cope without 40 percent of their rotation in the 10-5 loss to a talented Tampa Bay team last night: Jimmy Barthmaier gave up a touchdown in his major league debut and was chased right back to the minors, reliever Denny Bautista narrowly escaped serious injury when a line drive struck his pitching arm, and the Rays' hits kept coming and coming, 15 in all.
"Tough night," manager John Russell said.
There might be more ahead, too, with Ian Snell and Phil Dumatrait on the 15-day disabled list and two injured relievers still on the roster in Franquelis Osoria, who has a strained Achilles tendon, and Bautista, who might have had the worst night of all ...
- Box score
- Game: Pirates vs. Tampa Bay Rays, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV, Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: RHP Ty Taubenheim (season debut) vs. RHP Edwin Jackson (4-6, 4.35).
- Key matchup: The Pirates must be patient vs. Jackson, who has nearly as many walks (42) as strikeouts (57) and has run up pitch counts of 94-plus in his past seven starts despite only once achieving seven innings.
- Of note: As part of African-American heritage weekend, the teams will wear Negro Leagues uniforms, the Pirates those of the Pittsburgh Crawfords, the Rays those of the Jacksonville Red Caps.
Bautista, acquired by trade the previous day, was summoned in the third inning to bail out Barthmaier and got two quick outs. But Akinori Iwamura led off the Rays' fourth with a screamer off Bautista's right forearm, hitting hard enough to ricochet a good distance away. After pacing in visible pain around the mound briefly, athletic trainer Brad Henderson immediately ushered him off the field.
X-rays detected no fracture, but there was no firm diagnosis last night on other possible damage, nor any word on how much time Bautista might miss. He will be examined again this afternoon.
"He was kind of fortunate it caught the top of the forearm," Russell said, pointing to the meatiest part of that area. "Nothing major went wrong, it appears."
Barthmaier, the 24-year-old right-hander who opened the season with Class AA Altoona, was returned to Class AAA Indianapolis after 21/3 innings in which he gave up seven runs on seven hits, including three-run home runs by Evan Longoria and Eric Hinske off elevated fastballs.
He showed some of the decent stuff that was part of his recent surge in the minors, especially a crisp changeup. But there was little command -- two walks, 37 of 64 pitches for strikes -- and too much aggressiveness in certain counts.
"He might have given into hitters too easily," Russell said. "It's a good learning experience. He's worked awfully hard to get here, and I'm sure he'll keep working hard."
"It's definitely tough," Barthmaier said. "I left a couple pitches up, and they make you pay for it. I'll try to keep building on it. It didn't work out the way I wanted it to."
His only highlight: The 19,970 on hand gave him a forgiving ovation as he walked off.
The Pirates were down, 7-0, but they kept swinging, as has become standard practice ...
Facing one of the game's premier left-handers in Scott Kazmir, they scored four times in the fourth: Freddy Sanchez led off with his fifth home run, continuing a modest 8-for-28 revival. After a Ryan Doumit double and two outs, Jose Bautista walked and Chris Gomez -- starting at first base because he was 7 for 14 lifetime against Kazmir -- got an RBI single. Jack Wilson's two-run liner into left cut the Rays' lead to 7-4.
Kazmir was out after the fifth, charged with four runs to match his season high. His ERA rose to a still-sparkling 2.28.
"We did a nice job against a pretty good pitcher," Russell said.
Sean Burnett entered in an emergency for Denny Bautista and turned in his finest outing since returning to the majors, allowing one run -- Carl Crawford's solo shot in the sixth -- over three innings.
"I found my sinker a couple appearances ago, and it's been working for me," Burnett said. "That's how I look when I get comfortable."
Another RBI single by Wilson in the bottom of the sixth pulled the Pirates within 8-5, but they stranded two runners, and the Rays scored twice more off John Grabow in the seventh.
Grabow, scored upon in seven of his 11 appearances this month, has given up 12 runs in that span.
"It's just a tough stretch right now," Wilson said. "We're going to have to work through it."
Longoria, Tampa Bay's superb young third baseman, went 4 for 5 with the home run, a double, three RBIs and two fine efforts in the field.
With a loss tonight, the Pirates will fall six games below .500 for the first time since May 1.
The pitcher du jour: Ty Taubenheim, fresh up from Indianapolis
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at email@example.com .