Pirates' record 20-0 loss 'an embarrassment'

Margin of defeat to Milwaukee is 124-year-old franchise's worst


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The Pittsburgh Baseball Club has played in these parts for 124 years, from coal miners to millionaires, from Honus Wagner to Roberto Clemente to Willie Stargell, from five World Series championships to 17 consecutive losing seasons.

And never, never was there a loss among the franchise's first 18,813 games to rival the one displayed on PNC Park's video scoreboard at 4:04 p.m. Thursday:

Milwaukee Brewers 20, Pirates 0.

Worst loss ever.

Their previous largest margin of defeat was by 18 runs, set twice: The first came nearly a century ago, 18-0 to the Philadelphia Phillies on July 11, 1910; the other was by 19-1 to the Cincinnati Reds on July 14, 1955.

"Today was an embarrassment," reliever Brendan Donnelly said, snapping off each word in an otherwise silent clubhouse. "We should all be embarrassed to have Major League Baseball uniforms on our back today. It was an atrocity. We set a record. We should all be embarrassed about it."


Today

Game: Pirates vs. Houston Astros, 8:05 p.m., Minute Maid Park.

TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).

Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (1-1, 4.58) vs. RHP Roy Oswalt (1-2, 2.37).

Key matchup: The Astros' Hunter Pence is a .320 hitter off Maholm, 8 for 25 with a home run.

Of note: Oswalt, Houston's longtime ace, has pitched well enough to win all three starts -- 17 strikeouts, four walks in 19 innings -- but has received only seven runs of support. In 25 starts vs. the Pirates, he is 13-7 with a 2.62 ERA.

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Minor-league report


Some could barely speak.

"I got nothing," right fielder Ryan Church said, declining an interview request while staring into his stall. "I'm embarrassed."

It was only Sunday that the Pirates were 7-5, a game out of first place in the Central Division of the National League and sounding eager to face the opponent that has tormented them more than any other in recent years. Manager John Russell referred to his players as adopting an "us-against-the-world mentality" in terms of proving doubters wrong.

Instead, Milwaukee went above and beyond the usual damage in an epic three-game sweep: The Brewers outscored the Pirates, 36-1, and outhit them, 46-18, with 25 extra-base hits to the Pirates' six, eight home runs to the Pirates' zero. On the mound, the Brewers' starters went 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA, while the Pirates' starters went 0-3 with a 15.82 ERA.

It was the most lopsided three-game sweep in the major leagues since the Detroit Tigers outscored the Minnesota Twins, 45-10, April 23-25, 1993.

As Russell put it, "We got our butts kicked."

In this one, Pirates rookie starter Daniel McCutchen was rocked for six runs in 32/3 innings to, remarkably, keep his ERA at exactly 14.73. Reliever D.J. Carrasco allowed four more runs, Joel Hanrahan six more, and Octavio Dotel four more, as Milwaukee got home runs from Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, George Kottaras and Jim Edmonds as part of a 25-hit barrage.

"It's embarrassing," Russell said. "We've got to pitch better. That's the bottom line. We can't keep giving up that many runs that early and keep trying to fight back. We're not swinging the bats right now, and you can't pitch that way when you're not swinging."

The Pirates' staff ERA is 7.23, highest in the majors by more than a full run. But, as Russell indicated, that was not the only problem Thursday: The offense was shut out for a second consecutive game, held to eight hits, all but one of them a single. Fundamentals were lacking, too, with two early baserunning gaffes and second baseman Aki Iwamura's muffed grounder that set up the record-breaking runs in the ninth.

The crowd of 13,634 booed most of the afternoon, except for that ninth: Some of the few thousand who stuck it out playfully urged the Brewers, who entered the inning with a 16-0 lead, to go for 20. There were even a few cheers when pitcher Manny Parra singled through the right side off Dotel to produce that 20th run.

It was the third hit by a Milwaukee pitcher on the day, and it came off the Pirates' closer as Russell sent out three of his top relievers near the end in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding.

"Unbelievable," Dotel said. "All of it."

One fan in the upper deck repeatedly yelled, "Trade 'em all, Mr. Rickey!"

That was a reference to Branch Rickey, general manager of the Pirates in the 1950s, which had been their worst era until the current one.

The Pirates are 7-8, still ahead of most expectations and still third in the division, but a 10-game road trip begins tonight in Houston and continues to Milwaukee -- where they have lost 21 in a row -- and Los Angeles.

There are other indicators of trouble ahead, beyond the schedule or even the absurd ERA: The team batting average is .232, the Nos. 3-6 hitters have combined for five home runs, and the Pirates have been outscored in their eight losses, 85-13.

Most alarming, perhaps: Their overall minus-57 run differential is 22 runs worse than any team in the majors.

Some players elected to shrug off this one and focus on the team still being close to .500.

"I don't care about making history. I care about winning games," left fielder Lastings Milledge said. "All we need to do is win our next game, 1-0. And if we do that, people are still going to say we just got outscored, 36-1. Well, we're still 7-8, still having a good season. We had a bad series. We're still ready to play. And we're going to take it to somebody on the road, make somebody pay."

For Milwaukee, it matched the largest margin of victory in that franchise's history, along with a 22-2 victory Aug. 28, 1992, in Toronto.

Some of the Brewers apparently discussed how they could keep the game from getting further out of hand, and steps were taken. Manager Ken Macha replaced his entire heart of the order late in the game, and third base coach Brad Fischer had the stop sign up at every turn.

But, when the pitchers are hacking out three hits ...

"It was just one of those crazy games," the Brewers' Edmonds said. "You keep playing the game and respect the situation. They're trying, and we're trying. There's a fine line between respecting the game and still playing the game. It's a tough situation."

Edmonds went 4 for 6, Braun had five RBIs, and every Milwaukee player who stepped to the plate had at least one hit, except reserve Jody Gerut and reliever Claudio Vargas in their lone at-bats, and 10 players had at least one RBI. The Brewers produced a .423 average in their 59 at-bats.

With the long-awaited 27th out, first baseman Garrett Jones stood against the Pirates' dugout railing, staring toward the field while the Brewers walked through their post-victory line, one last handful of boos trickling down.

"It's frustrating, to get beat like that. It's never fun," Jones said. "I don't think I've ever seen a team hit that well all the way through the lineup, that consistent through a whole game. It was unbelievable to see."


Among worst ever

Here is how the Pirates' effort against the Brewers ranks in Major League Baseball's history, according to Brody Womer of Stats LLC:

Most lopsided shutouts since 1900:

DateResultSept. 16, 1975Pirates 22, Chicago Cubs 0Aug. 31, 2004Cleveland Indians 22, New York Yankees 0Sept. 15, 1901Detroit Tigers 21, Cleveland Blues 0Aug. 13, 1939New York Yankees 21, Philadelphia A's 0April 22, 2010Milwaukee Brewers 20, Pirates 0

Most lopsided three-game series, since 1900:

DatesResultsSept. 23-25, 1901Brooklyn Suberbas over Cincinnati Reds, 50-10June 7-9, 1950Boston Red Sox over St. Louis Browns, 56-20April 23-25, 1993Detroit Tigers over Minnesota Twins, 45-10April 20-22, 2010Milwaukee Brewers over Pirates, 36-1June 16-18, 1953Boston Red Sox over Detroit Tigers, 43-9

Dejan Kovacevic: dkovacevic@post-gazette.com . Find more at PBC Blog . First Published April 23, 2010 4:00 AM


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