John Russell has spent most of his first season as the Pirates' manager accentuating the positive where possible, but perhaps all this losing is taking a toll on that approach.
Consider this answer, after a 3-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers last night at PNC Park ran the losing streak to eight, when Russell was asked if Tom Gorzelanny's quality start -- three runs, four hits over seven innings -- could represent a building block ...
"It's good," Russell replied. "But at some point, our pitchers have to understand a good outing is a win. It's not enough to go out there and pitch OK, and we still lose. Obviously, it's not just the pitchers. We've got to score more runs for them. But we're working on the mentality that we need to win. We're not going to continue to say, 'We threw well,' but we get beat."
- Box score
- Game: Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (8-7, 3.62) vs. RHP Jeff Suppan (9-7, 4.58).
- Key matchup: Everyone vs. Maholm, who has worked six innings or more in 20 consecutive starts and has a 2.80 ERA in his past 16.
- Of note: Jesse Chavez is the 25th pitcher to wear a Pirates uniform this season, tying a franchise record set in 1996, matched last year. He also is the 44th player, five shy of the franchise record set in 1987, matched in 2001
"You can lose a game in the first inning just like you can lose it in the ninth."
This one most assuredly was decided in the first.
Gorzelanny threw two opening balls to Rickie Weeks before he singled. He then walked J.J. Hardy on four pitches, bringing an unusually early round of boos from the crowd of 18,086.
Again, two quick balls to Ryan Braun and, after a strike, he drove a flat, elevated changeup the other way above the Clemente Wall for an instant 3-0 Milwaukee lead.
"I wasn't going to get down on myself after the first," Gorzelanny recalled. "It's easy to do that. I just wanted to put it behind me, take it slow, take it easy. Just focus on the next guy."
That switch flipped dramatically: Gorzelanny conceded just a single and a walk after the first inning and retiring 14 in a row at one point.
It might have been as dominant as he has looked since last year, but again, the difference is that, last year, he was 14-8. Today, he is 6-9 with a 6.61 ERA and nearly two months of his summer lost with Class AAA Indianapolis.
Which might explain Russell's reluctance to rave.
He did offer some praise.
"The first inning obviously was a struggle, but he settled down," Russell said. "After that, he was about as efficient as he's been all year."
There again, though, it came with an asterisk.
"But he was wild in the first inning, and that first inning has been one of our Achilles' heels. All year, we've been giving up those runs."
The total now is 111, highest in Major League Baseball.
All of the offense -- and the only run in the past two games -- came on Nate McLouth's 23rd home run in the fifth. Otherwise, Milwaukee starter Dave Bush mostly coasted into the seventh inning, allowing six hits and two walks. Some balls were stung early, including a Brandon Moss lineout with bases loaded in the third.
"No luck today," shortstop Jack Wilson said.
The tying run came to the plate in the ninth against Salomon Torres when Nyjer Morgan singled, but McLouth and Ryan Doumit grounded out, and Torres had his 26th save.
On the streak front ...
Andy LaRoche's hitless streak ended at 27 when he doubled in his second at-bat. It was the Pirates' longest hitless streak since Daryle Ward's 30 in 2005.
The team's losing streak is the longest since a nine-gamer last September.
Five more losses, and the Pirates, now 20 games under .500 at 57-77, will clinch a 16th consecutive losing season to match the professional sports record.
First Published August 30, 2008 4:00 AM