Pirates crawl to within one loss of No. 82
Third baseman Pedro Alvarez makes an outstanding diving stop to rob the Marlins' Cody Ross in the fourth inning Thursday at PNC Park. Alvarez threw Ross out from his knees.
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Anyone who had the 20th of August in the pool, step to the front.
One of the few fun aspects for followers of the Pirates during these 18 miserable seasons can be picking the date on which they will lose No. 82 and clinch yet another losing record. And, thanks to the 4-2 loss Thursday night to the Florida Marlins, those holding tickets for the series opener tonight against the New York Mets can see history made.
This one would have its own niche, too: It would be the earliest point for No. 82 in any of the 18 seasons, roughly a week earlier than the previous earliest, Aug. 27, 2001. And that, of course, is a sign that this is the worst of any of the seasons, on course for a 53-109 finish, worst since 1952.
"It's definitely frustrating," first baseman Garrett Jones said of all the losing, three of four in this series, 10 of the past 11. "You're just looking for something to go your way."
Some see it as a test of perseverance.
Game: Pirates vs. New York Mets, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Season: First meeting.
Pitching: RHP Jeff Karstens (2-9, 4.57) vs. RHP Mike Pelfrey (11-7, 3.95).
Key matchup: This would have been Jason Bay's first game back in Pittsburgh since the July 2008 trade, but he is on the Mets' disabled list with a concussion, the result of running into a wall in Los Angeles July 23.
Of note: Ryan Doumit's home run out of PNC Park Wednesday was his 32nd at the stadium, fourth-most among Pirates. Bay leads with 61, then Craig Wilson at 47, then Brian Giles at 43.
"This is tough if you make it tough," center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "Thing is, you've got to be winning mentally, even if it's not showing up on the board ... and it didn't again tonight. You have to get positive things in your head. It keeps you positive every time you come to the field. You go out there thinking like a winner."
But the losing just goes on and on.
The Pirates' overall record is 40-81. Since the All-Star break, they are 10-23. Since the Fourth of July, they are 10-29..
They pitch sporadically.
They hit rarely, held to two or fewer runs in eight of those past 10 losses.
And, promising rookies or not, high-priced teenaged acquisitions or not, the current outcomes on the field look as bad as ever, worse in some ways.
The formula for this loss was familiar: Paul Maholm pitched well for a spell, then was rocked in the sixth inning for four runs on four hits, including Gaby Sanchez's three-run home run, as well as a walk and a hit batsman against the opposing pitcher. And that opposing pitcher, 21-year-old minor-league recall Alex Sanabia, feasted on the Pirates' lineup by holding them to a run and four hits over 7 2/3 innings.
Sanabia does come with good pedigree out of a good system, and he did flash the expected very good sinker. But this was his fifth career start, he had spent most of the summer in Class AA, and the Pirates barely made him break a sweat, as he threw only 85 pitches.
"He threw all his pitches for strikes," Pirates manager John Russell said of Sanabia. "He had a good slider and changeup, too. He kept us off balance, and we really couldn't figure him out."
There was some solid contact.
"We hit some balls decent," Jones said. "Just right at people."
The game was quick and scoreless through five until Florida broke it open in the sixth: Emilio Bonifacio walked, Logan Morrison singled, and Sanchez -- who had been destroying the ball in Florida's batting practice -- launched his three-run shot deep into the visitors' bullpen beyond center field for a 3-0 lead.
It was a 1-2 fastball over the inner part of the plate.
"He got to it, and that was that," Maholm said.
After a double play, Cody Ross doubled, and Wes Helms singled him home for the fourth run.
"Unfortunately I needed to make some pitches and didn't do it," Maholm said. "I still feel good. My breaking balls were still good. I don't know exactly what happened. Right now, it's frustrating."
Consecutive doubles by Chris Snyder and Argenis Diaz brought the Pirates' first run in the eighth, McCutchen's 12th home run -- second in as many night -- in the ninth the other.
Neil Walker singled after the latter, bringing the tying run to the plate with one out, but Jones and Pedro Alvarez struck out swinging.
Perhaps the one plus for the Pirates of late is that the public appears to be tuning them out: Crowds for this four-game series, of which the Marlins took the past three, were 13,396, 14,156, 12,242 and the 15,783 Thursday.
First Published August 20, 2010 12:00 am