MILWAUKEE -- What happened on the field in the Pirates' 8-6 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers was not really the news last night, and not just because it resurrected a rather old storyline with a 19th consecutive loss at Miller Park.
Rather, the main event was manager John Russell benching catcher Ryan Doumit after 4 1/2 innings without Doumit being injured.
What happened, exactly?
No one was saying, but it must have been plenty unpleasant to have so visibly ticked off the even-keeled Russell, who never previously took such an action with a player.
Asked why Doumit was removed, Russell replied, "That's between me and Ryan."
Asked if Doumit was hurt, Russell confirmed he was not.
Asked if Doumit will play tonight, Russell paused and replied, "That's between me and Ryan."
That was it.
Doumit declined to be interviewed, and other players said they were unaware of the specifics.
- Game: Pirates vs. Milwaukee Brewers, 7:05 p.m., Miller Park.
- Radio: WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: RHP Kevin Hart (4-3, 4.14) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (12-10, 3.51).
- Key matchup: Milwaukee's Prince Fielder and Mike Cameron each took Hart deep in the Pirates' 9-5 victory Aug. 17 at PNC Park.
- Of note: The Pirates' worst inning this season, by a wide margin, has been the eighth, during which they have been outscored, 75-40.
The Pirates' clubhouse was closed to the media seven minutes longer than usual after the game, and Russell's office door still was closed once access was granted. Only general manager Neal Huntington emerged from Russell's office once the door opened.
If Doumit committed any transgression on the field, it was not easily detected.
At the plate, he went 0 for 3, grounding into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded, grounding into a forceout, then flying out to center in his final at-bat in the fifth. Jason Jaramillo was behind the plate for the bottom half.
Behind the plate, Doumit caught the worst start of Zach Duke's fine season -- three innings, seven hits, 11 runs -- then two innings in which Chris Bootcheck gave up another run. Milwaukee was leading, 8-4, at the time.
Doumit, suddenly the franchise's most tenured player, has made no secret of his displeasure with the many trades the Pirates made this summer, but he has had private meetings in the past month with Huntington and Russell aimed at assuring him the team considers him part of its long-term future. At the same time, some in management have been dissatisfied with what they have seen from Doumit -- on and off the field -- since the trades were made.
His season average is down to .219, and his August average -- after the trades -- is .182 with three home runs and six RBIs. Doumit rejoined the lineup July 9 after missing two months to a fractured wrist.
On July 31, the evening after the trading deadline, Russell privately addressed Doumit regarding a failure to hustle out a double play based on his long-time trust of Doumit and Doumit's reputation for playing hard. Doumit said he slowed down because Washington's 6-foot-7 first baseman, Adam Dunn, was blocking the bag.
The game last night was otherwise mostly forgettable and, from the sound of it, that is how Duke would prefer to keep it.
He gave up five runs in the first, including Prince Fielder's three-run moon shot beyond center field, then one each in the second and third before Russell had seen enough.
"I felt fine warming up but, for whatever reason, I was out of whack," Duke said. "My location wasn't very good, and I fell behind in the count."
He fell behind 11 of 19 batters.
"Just one of those unfortunate nights," Russell said of Duke.
The lone positive was that the "energy" the Pirates were describing through that 7-2 homestand remained visible: Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run home run and two-run double in going 3 for 5, and Steve Pearce hit a two-run double, all of which added up to keeping within 8-6 of the Brewers through six innings.
But Milwaukee's bullpen did not allow a hit in the final three, capped by Trevor Hoffman's record 582nd save.
"We battled," McCutchen said. "We were in this the whole game."
McCutchen's home run was his 10th, his third in four nights.
Was he aware he needed a triple for the cycle before striking out with a man aboard in the eighth?
"That would be selfish. I didn't even know about it. I'm out there trying to help my team win a game."
The Pirates have not won in Milwaukee since May 3, 2007. The 0-19 streak between these opponents is the longest in the same venue since the Baltimore Orioles beat the visiting Toronto Blue Jays the same number of times at old Memorial Stadium in 1978-81.
Dejan Kovacevic can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . First Published August 29, 2009 4:00 AM