The Pirates' 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals last night at PNC Park could be summarized with this simple sequence: One ... two ... pfffffft.
Nyjer Morgan would get aboard, then Freddy Sanchez ... pfffffft.
Single here, single there ... pfffffft.
A victory Tuesday, another Wednesday for a chance to sweep a first-place team ... pfffffft.
"One of those games where we just couldn't push anything across," manager John Russell said.
- Game: Pirates vs. Colorado Rockies, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (3-1, 4.06) vs. RHP Jorge De La Rosa (0-3, 3.53)
- Key matchup: The Pirates' right-handed hitters probably will have to get the job done. Lefties are batting just .114 - 4 for 35 with 16 strikeouts - against De La Rosa.
- Of note: Colorado just lost two of three to Houston, giving up 43 hits, including 24 Wednesday alone. All nine of the Astros' starters had at least two hits that night.
In an excruciating exercise in futility, the Pirates managed to shrink 12 hits and three walks into one run. That included handing St. Louis starter Mitchell Boggs a line of nine hits and two walks over 4 1/3 innings, with just the lone run. In the third and fourth innings alone, seven men reached -- a triple, five singles and a walk -- and one touched home plate.
All the Pirates had to show for this:
• 10 left on base.
• 1 for 9 with men in scoring position.
• 0 for 7 with two men aboard, including two inning-ending double plays.
• Two extra-base hits.
• Innumerable groans from the 12,347 on hand.
And, given that the leadoff man Morgan reached four times and the No. 2 batter Sanchez three times, the most deflated player had to have been Nate McLouth, the No. 3 batter and the Pirates' top RBI man with 23: He stranded four and struck his only single when no one was aboard.
"I wasn't able to get anyone home," McLouth said. "Just one of those nights. The past two games, we were getting those hits when we needed them. Tonight, unfortunately, we didn't."
In fairness to McLouth, he screamed a liner narrowly foul in his first at-bat just before flying out, then hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Albert Pujols in the next at-bat that started a 3-6-3 double play. A few feet either way, and McLouth might well have added to that RBI total by a handful.
Adam LaRoche stranded six, Robinzon Diaz five, Jack Wilson four.
Starter Jeff Karstens was charged with three runs over six innings, but his main blemish brought quite the boom: Colby Rasmus' two-run home run in the second traveled 458 feet and bounced into the Allegheny River, marking the 25th such occasion, for a 2-0 St. Louis lead.
"Sounded like an explosion," Karstens said.
It was the sixth home run allowed by Karstens, most on the team, but his overall showing appeared no less effective than his previous start in New York -- two runs in six innings -- one that probably kept him in the rotation.
"He left the one pitch over the plate, but I thought Jeff threw OK," Russell said. "He built off the last start."
"I didn't have great stuff," Karstens said. "I was able to slip some curveballs in there. With some of the reaction I was getting, I kept throwing them."
Both of his strikeouts came on curves.
The Pirates pulled within one in the fourth when LaRoche tripled off the Clemente Wall and Diaz singled him home, but there could have been much more: Eric Hinske followed with a single off Pujols' glove, but Diaz was thrown out trying to stretch to third. Brandon Moss' single put runners at the corners, but Wilson bounced into a double play to end it.
Russell partially absolved Diaz.
"It's the right idea when a ball goes through that side to keep going," Russell said. "But you have to pick up the third base coach. Youthful mistake."
Third base coach Tony Beasley had motioned Diaz to stay at second.
St. Louis went ahead, 3-1, on Shane Robinson's sacrifice fly in the fifth, and the Pirates' trend continued in the bottom half: With bases loaded and one out, LaRoche and Diaz popped out.
Evan Meek gave up two in the eighth, and the Cardinals were on their way.
Morgan was the brightest spot, with two singles and two walks, raising his average to .311 and his on-base percentage to a fine .387. As another sign of his continuing maturity at the plate, he also drew a remarkable 24 of the 83 pitches Boggs threw in his three at-bats against the starter.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at email@example.com . First Published May 15, 2009 4:00 AM