The Pirates stranded eight runners Thursday, failing to provide much run support for right-hander Brandon Cumpton.
In his first appearance this season, Cumpton pitched seven innings at PNC Park, but suffered the 2-1 loss against the Cincinnati Reds because of a two-run sixth.
The Pirates’ struggling offense produced 12 strikeouts and was 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
The loss capped a dismal 2-6 homestand and sunk the Pirates’ record to 9-14 as they for head for a three-game series in St. Louis.
“We’ve got a lot of games to play still,” said center fielder Andrew McCutchen. “We know we’re going to be better than where we are. We’ve got to keep going, keep pushing and show up in St. Louis a different ball team.”
Manager Clint Hurdle was asked if any kind of shake up is on the way, including, perhaps, a call to Class AAA Indianapolis?
“I know we’ve got some guys down there we have some interest in. One in particular,” said Hurdle, presumably speaking of top prospect Gregory Polanco, who is hitting .403. “We also have some guys here that need to find some consistency and use the opportunity that’s there while it’s there to get something down. We’ll see where that takes us.
“Everything takes care of itself in time. Moves will be made when it’s the right time to make them … if they need to be made.”
Hurdle shifted the lineup slightly to account for Reds starter Tony Cingrani, a left-hander, but got spotty results.
Right-handed batter Gaby Sanchez went 1 for 3 from the cleanup spot, his lone hit a leadoff single in the sixth.
Left-handed batter Pedro Alvarez went 1 for 4 with three strikeouts in the No. 5 spot and had the only RBI.
Leadoff man Starling Marte struck out twice as did Cumpton.
Cumpton was recalled from Indianapolis to pitch in place of injured starter Wandy Rodriguez. He arrived just before 10 p.m. Wednesday and provided five shutout innings, before giving up the decisive two runs in the sixth. He completed seven innings, gave up four hits and struck out five. He also hit three batters.
And that proved costly in the sixth, when an errant sinker hit Joey Votto to start the inning and another one hit Todd Frazier two outs later. Then, Ryan Ludwick turned on a slider and smashed a double to the cap in left-center to score the only runs the Reds would get or need.
“Felt good. Got out of the gate pretty hot and let a couple pitches get away from me that sixth inning, and that hurt me,” said Cumpton. “Was just being aggressive going in, and a couple of them were with two strikes. I pitch in a lot.”
Hurdle said Cumpton will get another start next week.
“There’s one reason he’s pitching efficiently, because he’s working the ball in,” said Hurdle. “A couple of them got more than he wanted to get in. You don’t want to hit people and put people on base. But he’s convicted to pitch in.
“You can’t have it both ways. We’ve seen it from him before. He’s going to go in. He’s going to go in with conviction.”
The sunny afternoon started well enough for the Pirates as they forced Cingrani (2-2) to throw 32 pitches in the first inning, including an a 11-pitch walk to Neil Walker, who fouled of several fastballs.
McCutchen moved Walker to second with a one-out infield single, but Sanchez struck out. Alvarez singled to shallow right to score Walker. McCutchen moved to second on the hit and took third on the throw. Jose Tabata ended the inning by lining out to right.
They stranded one runner in the third, two in the sixth and another in the seventh.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez.