Doug Mientkiewicz, fresh off kicking an equipment box in the aftermath of the Pirates' flat-lined 6-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers last night at PNC Park, went for a brief walk beyond the clubhouse walls, tried to clear his head, then returned to sit at his stall.
The one constant: He never stopped shaking his head.
"I'm probably not the guy to ask right now because I probably won't say ... it's just embarrassing. It really is. You've got three guys who run balls out right now. It's frustrating. Just frustrating. The whole thing is frustrating."
- Game: Pirates vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (5-14, 4.84) vs. RHP Chad Billingsley (15-10, 3.02).
- Key matchup: Duke has dominated the only three Dodgers with double-digit at-bats against him: Juan Pierre is 3 for 17, Jeff Kent 2 for 14, Rafael Furcal 2 for 13.
- Of note: Clutch is not everything: The Pirates have batted .323 with runners in scoring position this month, but are just 6-9.
He motioned with his right arm to the rest of the clubhouse, no players left and only a vacuum humming in the opposite corner.
"I mean, look at this place. It's a ghost town."
Another shake of the head.
"I don't know. What are you going to do? Nothing you can do. Just pick up and try again tomorrow, I guess."
With that, Mientkiewicz politely declined to continue the interview.
Which was fine, because not much needed to be said, anyway, that the 12,741 on hand did not witness themselves with the Pirates' worst effort -- and effort is the operative term -- of an already awful season.
"It wasn't good," manager John Russell said when asked of his team's performance. "We gave them three extra runs and couldn't make a routine bunt play. It wasn't very sound for us."
Jeff Karstens was tagged for five runs in as many innings, and he was the one who muffed that bunt play.
Rewind to the second inning ...
Los Angeles' Casey Blake led off with a home run, and the Dodgers kept coming with two singles wrapped around an out. Karstens' mound opponent, Derek Lowe, put down a bunt that Karstens fielded cleanly but threw low to Freddy Sanchez covering at first. Sanchez initially failed to scoop it, but -- as replays conclusively showed -- picked it up before Lowe's foot hit the bag.
"He was out," Sanchez said.
Not in the eye of first base umpire Tim Timmons, who called Lowe safe. Sanchez glared at Timmons and raised his arms, and Mientkiewicz, standing behind Sanchez, did likewise.
Russell never emerged from the dugout to argue, continuing a trend of staying put in all but extreme cases.
His reason this time?
"You hate to argue a routine play," Russell said. "You've got to make that play. It's a play you work on day in, day out. It's just a play that needs to be made."
Russell has been ejected once this season, Aug. 24 in Milwaukee.
Karstens offered no excuses. He would give up 11 hits in losing for the sixth time since those promising first two starts, and his line included a sacrifice fly, an Andre Ethier single and Manny Ramirez double that brought three unearned runs after his error.
"I've got to get it there, regardless if he was out or not after Freddy picked it up," Karstens said. "I should have made the throw right to his chest. We go over those things over and over in spring training and all season."
There was more ...
Lowe's bunt was preceded by Angel Berroa's single through the left side that drew a barely budging attempt by third baseman Andy LaRoche and, in turn, some vocal jeers from the crowd.
LaRoche would hear it again later, when he struck out to end the game for another 0-for-4 night that dropped his average to .169.
One more ...
After the Pirates opened the fourth with three singles off Lowe, pulling within 5-1, Brandon Moss bounced directly in front of home plate and, inexplicably, never left the box. That resulted in a 2-6-3 double play that could have been executed by the Dodgers if one of them had strolled to touch each base.
This time, Russell emerged and briefly conferred with home plate umpire Jim Reynolds as to whether the ball was fair, but it was evident that it was.
Moss, long known for playing hard, looked crestfallen afterward.
"I thought it was foul, but that's no excuse," Moss said. "It makes not just me but the whole team look bad. And it won't happen again with me. I can guarantee that."
Of Moss, Russell said simply, "He thought it was a foul ball."
What seemed to trouble Russell more was that Nate McLouth, the man at third, never broke for home.
"The very least you want to get out of that situation is a run on the double play," Russell said.
Mercifully for the home side, the game ended in a breezy 2 1/2 hours.
The season, most unfortunately, still has 11 games to go.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published September 17, 2008 4:00 AM