March to 100 losses begins for Pirates
The Mets' Jose Reyes slides safely past Pirates catcher Chris Snyder in the first inning Saturday at PNC Park.
An angry Snyder then has to be separated from umpire Adrian Johnson by manager John Russell.
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So, what now?
The increasingly inevitable march to 100 losses?
With the Pirates having achieved their annually climactic moment Friday, the 82nd loss that clinched an 18th consecutive losing season, there is no good reason to imagine it will cease anytime soon. Certainly, there was precious little to be found in the rain-shortened 5-1 loss to the New York Mets on Saturday night before 28,759 at PNC Park, one in which James McDonald was tagged for an unflattering five runs and five walks in five innings.
"I didn't have my good command," McDonald said. "I wish I could have done more to keep my team in the game."
The game was ended one batter into the sixth by a steady storm, after a lighter rain had soaked the place most of the evening, but it still counted as loss No. 83.
Game: Pirates vs. New York Mets, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (5-12, 5.33) vs. LHP Johan Santana (10-7, 2.97).
Key matchup: The brilliant Santana has limited the Pirates at a .192 batting average at PNC Park and has a 1.64 ERA here.
Of note: Duke faced New York once last season, June 2 at home, and held them to one run over seven innings in a 3-1 victory.
And that left the Pirates needing to go 23-16 the rest of the way to avoid the first 100-loss season since 2001 and Derek "Operation Shutdown" Bell, the second since 1985 and "Joggin'" George Hendrick, and one has to go all the way back to the bleak 1952-54 seasons to find the previous century-loss marks.
Anyone who thinks 23-16 is about to happen, consider this: The Pirates' current five-game losing streak is the eighth this season. Or that, since Pedro Alvarez's 10th-inning home run that many with the team had hoped would symbolize a turnaround, the team is 1-12.
McDonald had the lone win in there, and he has been mostly good since his arrival from Los Angeles. But he also has alternated efficient and inefficient starts, and this one was very much the latter with a pitch count of 103, just 55 strikes and two walks to mound opponent Jon Niese.
"I thought James still threw well, but he's looking to be more efficient, to get more early strikes," manager John Russell said. "He's going to be pretty good."
McDonald was asked if the rain played a role.
"No," he replied quickly. "Their guy pitched in the same weather. I just wasn't good enough."
Niese also pitched five innings, allowing one run and one walk.
The evening opened under ugly skies and an even uglier first inning for the home side.
Jose Reyes doubled on McDonald's first pitch, and Angel Pagan reached on a bunt single when McDonald failed to cover first. And it would get worse: Carlos Beltran popped up to shallow center, and Andrew McCutchen threw directly home. That kept Reyes at third, but Pagan aggressively took second. Next, Chris Carter struck out on a pitch in the dirt and, as catcher Chris Snyder threw to first, Reyes sprinted home and got his hand under Snyder to touch home on the slide.
Snyder, who had his back to Reyes during the slide, leaped to his feet and barked at home plate umpire Adrian Johnson, though he -- and Russell -- would concede afterward Reyes was safe.
The play, according to Snyder ...
"I got the ball after the strikeout, checked Reyes, and tried to make as quick a throw as possible," he recalled. "Right when I threw, I was going back to the plate knowing the type of runner he is. I did pretty much everything I could do, and I guess he got a hand in there."
Ever been part of a play like that?
"No. But he's known for being one of the fastest guys in baseball, and he creates things."
The opponent's view ...
"When he was looking at me, I waited for him to throw the ball to first base," Reyes said. "As soon as I saw him throw it to first base, I take off and go home."
Russell credited Snyder's reaction on the play with "really pumping up our bench, even though Reyes was safe," adding, "There was a lot of energy. I would have liked to see how it would have gone if the game continued."
It was 1-0 at the time, and the Pirates evened that in the third when McCutchen doubled -- first of two --and eventually scored on Neil Walker's single.
But McDonald's inefficiency cost him.
In the fourth, Ike Davis doubled, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly.
In the fifth, Pagan doubled, Beltran walked and, after a flyout, David Wright crushed a three-run home run into the visitors' bullpen. The pitch to Wright was a pinpoint 1-1 fastball, right where Snyder had set up his glove, but the All-Star Wright hit it, anyway.
Russell called the pitch a "mistake," but McDonald called it "good" and added, "You just tip your cap to the guy."
Right after the game became official, Daniel McCutchen pitched to one batter in the Mets' sixth, a single by Reyes, when the downpour became too much. Umpire crew chief Tim McClelland halted it.
New York had not won a road series in a National League stadium all season -- 0-13-4 -- until taking the first two of this one.
First Published August 22, 2010 12:23 am