Lifting Chavez leads into Pirates' 4-3 loss
Pirates shortstop Ronny Cedeno can't come up with the ball as Diamondbacks infielder Ryan Roberts gets into second base in the eighth inning during last night's game at PNC Park. The Diamondbacks won, 4-3.
Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf pitches in the sixth inning.
Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf throws in the first inning.
Diamondbacks infielder Ryan Roberts slides into home plate safely as Pirates catcher Jason Jaramillo can't hold on to the ball in the eighth inning Wednesday.
Pirates catcher Jason Jaramillo loses the ball as he attempts to tag Diamondbacks infielder Ryan Roberts during the eighth inning.
Pirates catcher Jason Jaramillo waits for the throw from left field as Diamondbacks infielder Ryan Roberts slides in the eighth inning.
Pirates catcher Jason Jaramillo loses the ball as he attempts to tag Diamondbacks infielder Ryan Roberts in the eighth inning.
Pirates outfielder Jeff Salazar makes a diving grab on a ball hit by Diamondbacks outfielder Gerardo Parra in the fifth inning.
Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche hits a single in the fourth inning.
Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche is congratulated by teammate Steve Pearce after hitting a two-run home run in the second inning.
Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche is greeted at home by teammate Steve Pearce after hitting a two-run homer in the second inning as Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero rubs his head.
Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche makes a diving stop on a ground ball by Diamondbacks infielder Ryan Roberts during the second inning. LaRoche recovered to make the putout on Roberts at first.
Pirates second baseman Delwyn Young stands in the dugout after striking out in the ninth inning.
Pirates fans try to grab a home run hit by third baseman Andy LaRoche in the second inning.
Diamondbacks pitcher Doug Davis throws in the sixth inning.
Diamondbacks pitcher Doug Davis throws in the first inning.
Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew strokes a single off Pirates pitcher Jeff Karstens in the eighth inning, driving in two runs.
Diamondbacks first baseman Josh Whitesell breaks his bat and grounds out in the eighth inning.
Diamondbacks infielder Ryan Roberts, left, is greeted by first baseman Chad Tracy as he returns to the dugout after hitting a home run off Pirates pitcher Ross Ohlendorf in the sixth inning.
Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch, right, stands in the dugout with bench coach Kirk Gibson during last night's game.
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What was it, exactly, that Jesse Chavez did wrong?
That surely was the dominant question of the 11,470 who watched the Pirates waste a late lead and lose to the Arizona Diamondbacks, 4-3, last night at PNC Park, all after manager John Russell lifted an effective Chavez with no runners aboard and one out in the eighth inning.
And Russell seemed to know it.
"Everybody's going to ask that," he replied to a reporter's question on that topic. "Jesse did a great job. But we can't use one guy."
This was how it fell apart ...
Ross Ohlendorf had pitched well enough to make Andy LaRoche's early two-run home run and a 2-1 lead stand through the sixth. Chavez followed by striking out the side in the seventh -- around a single -- then retired his first batter of the eighth, left-handed Miguel Montero, before Russell summoned Joel Hanrahan to face right-handed Ryan Roberts, who earlier homered and had gone deep twice the previous night.
"Jesse did what he was supposed to do: He's good against left-handers, and we matched him up against them," Russell said. "Hanrahan's breaking ball, we felt, was very good for Roberts."
• Game: Pirates vs. Arizona Diamondbacks, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Kevin Hart (3-1, 2.60) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (6-6, 3.80).
• Key matchup: Hart makes his debut with the Pirates after winning his final three starts with Chicago -- six runs in 16 innings -- while the Cubs backed him with 28 runs of support.
• Of note: The Pirates were shut out a third consecutive time by Arizona Tuesday, marking the first time any opponent had done that since the Houston Astros in 1986.
Hanrahan tried some breaking balls with Roberts but issued a full-count walk.
Next, Hanrahan opened with three balls to Chad Tracy before clawing back for a full count and a comebacker to the mound. He fielded it cleanly and turned to second, hoping for a 1-6-3 double play, but his throw was too low for shortstop Ronny Cedeno. Everybody was safe.
"I tried to hurry my throw," Hanrahan said. "I just choked it off and bounced it."
The runner, Roberts, was close enough that he might have been safe, anyway.
"It was probably a situation where I should have looked at him and gone for the sure out at first," Hanrahan continued. "It's something we just worked on two days ago, the throw to second."
"We've got to get an out right there," Russell said. "I'm very pleased with the way Jesse threw, but we've got to have our guys step up and get the job done. That could've changed the game, if we get just an out."
As it was, the game changed in the other direction.
Russell turned to Evan Meek, who immediately gave up Chris Young's tying RBI single to left and, after a second out, Stephen Drew's two-run bullet up the middle that put Arizona ahead, 4-2.
The latter hit came off a misplaced curveball.
"It's tough," Meek said. "I'd love to have that pitch over again."
Of the three relievers involved:
• Chavez has a 3.60 ERA and has held opponents to a .211 average in his past 16 appearances.
• Hanrahan had been better of late -- a 1.93 ERA in his past 10 appearances -- but he allowed at least a hit or a walk in nine of those, and his overall ERA of 6.70 is highest on the staff.
• Meek has a 3.63 ERA and has held opponents to a .217 average for the year.
Hanrahan and Meek appeared inconsolable afterward.
"It's tough because Ross pitched a great game, and Jesse came in and did his job," Hanrahan said. "Then, you get into the situation you want, and you blow it."
The Pirates have lost four in a row, including the first two to the Diamondbacks.
LaRoche's home run, his fifth, came off Doug Davis in the second inning, and Garrett Jones' 11th home run came off closer Chad Qualls with one out in the ninth to pull the Pirates within 4-3. But Steve Pearce grounded out, and LaRoche struck out to end it.
Those home runs accounted for all the offense and two of another measly total of five hits, this after being held to one the previous night by Yusmeiro Petit and his 6.75 ERA.
What had been a slump is morphing into something larger: Since the All-Star break, the Pirates are batting .237 with a .292 on-base percentage and 67 runs, all three of those figures second-worst in Major League Baseball in that span.
The on-base percentage seemed to stand out in Russell's mind.
"We haven't had many opportunities," he said. "We've got to find a way to get guys on. We've got to start swinging the bat, get aggressive and see what happens. Right now, I think we're a little tentative."
It surely does not help Russell that, of the eight batters in his lineup, all but Ronny Cedeno spent at least part of this season or 2008 in the minors.
He acknowledged inexperience as a factor.
"That's part of it. We have good approaches some days but, you know, this is going to be a learning experience for a lot of guys to know when to be aggressive, when to stay within yourself. We'll keep pushing it."
Ohlendorf was charged only with Roberts' solo home run in the sixth, his final inning, as well as four hits and five walks. He again credited his new overhead delivery for improved stuff but was not satisfied with the command.
"It felt really good when I started it last time, and I was able to build on that," he said.
Twenty more losses, and the Pirates, now 45-62, will clinch the professional sports record with a 17th consecutive losing season.
First Published August 6, 2009 12:00 am