Again and again, Ross Ohlendorf reared back for that something extra, that bonus bite or velocity on his pitch that would get it past the bat.
Only to have it fouled off.
Again and again.
"Yeah," he would say later, "this one was definitely disappointing."
Ohlendorf's latest struggle, in the Pirates' 8-2 loss to Los Angeles last night at PNC Park, saw his fastball again lacking zip -- a 91-mph average, about 6-7 mph below his par -- and his breaking pitches bouncing in the dirt as he lasted just three innings in allowing the Dodgers a three-run head start.
Among his laborious total of 70 pitches ...
• Five hits, two for doubles.
• Four walks and a total of 27 balls.
• Two wild pitches, each going about 50 feet.
• Twenty-one pitches fouled off.
- Game: Pirates vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: RHP Jeff Karstens (2-5, 4.46) vs. RHP Derek Lowe (13-11, 3.48).
- Key matchup: Only two current Pirates have double-digit at-bats against Lowe, and neither has fared well: Adam LaRoche is 1 for 11 with a home run, Freddy Sanchez 1 for 12 with three strikeouts.
- Of note: The Dodgers are 45-19 against the Pirates since the turn of the century, 21-6 at PNC Park. No visitor has a higher winning percentage.
• Five swings and misses, three of those coming on one strikeout by Matt Kemp.
Normally, the latter figure would be most exasperating for a power pitcher. In this case, though, it had to be all those foul balls, especially considering that eight came after a two-strike count.
The lowlight came when Ohlendorf's .125-hitting mound counterpart, Hiroki Kuroda, fouled off five times with bases loaded in the second before rolling into a double play.
"Actually, that one time, I was trying to pitch to contact to get a ground ball," Ohlendorf recalled. "Got it with a slider."
Otherwise, though ...
"Pitching deep into the game is something I've always taken pride in, and I usually do a good job. But you can't throw that many pitches and expect to do so."
That makes three starts and two regressions since the Pirates made Ohlendorf a September callup, and manager John Russell sounded concerned.
"He's had a long season," Russell said. "His arm's been through a lot, and there could be some fatigue setting in."
Russell was referring to Ohlendorf having opened 2008 in the New York Yankees' bullpen, then, just before the Pirates acquired him in the Xavier Nady trade in late July, being converted to starting duty in Class AAA.
"I give him credit because he wants to pitch, he's so happy to be here, and he's always smiling," Russell said. "But it's not easy to change like that in midseason."
And last night?
"He obviously struggled, and he struggled with everything. We're hoping he'll rebound."
Ohlendorf, 0-2 with a 6.79 ERA, is scheduled to start again Sunday, Russell confirmed.
For his part, Ohlendorf acknowledged fading some.
"I'm not feeling as strong as I did a month ago," he said. "There isn't that same life that I'm used to having. But I'm feeling good enough."
There was much, much else for the 13,147 on hand to dislike about this one: Marino Salas was equally erratic in following Ohlendorf with three runs in as many innings. ... Romulo Sanchez, also not exactly carving out a future roster spot, gave up two more. ... Ryan Doumit's ill-advised -- and errant -- throw to try to catch a runner stealing second base with two outs in the third inning allowed the man at third base to trot home. ... Brandon Moss misplayed Manny Ramirez's fly ball to the Clemente Wall into a single in the fourth. ... Adam LaRoche inexplicably tried -- and failed -- to steal second with a 5-0 deficit.
Perhaps ugliest of all, Salas gave up diminutive Juan Pierre's first home run since Sept. 18, 2006, a span of 281 games and 1,070 at-bats. It came in the sixth, and it sailed with no-doubt trajectory beyond right field.
The Pirates' offense?
Try five hits, two each by Nyjer Morgan and Freddy Sanchez, plus LaRoche's meaningless two-run home run -- No. 20 on the season -- in the ninth off Brad Penny that broke the shutout.
So much for that three-game winning streak.
The Pirates have won more than three in a row just three times in 2008.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at email@example.com . First Published September 16, 2008 4:00 AM