Pirates lose in San Francisco, 3-2
Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton works against the Giants during the third inning of last night's game in San Francisco.
Pirates outfielder Delwyn Young breaks up a double play with Giants second baseman Eugenio Velez during the seventh inning.
Giants second baseman Eugenio Velez celebrates his home run hit off Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton during the second inning.
Giants second baseman Eugenio Velez swings for an RBI double off Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton during the sixth inning.
Giants pitcher Barry Zito throws against the Pirates during the first inning.
Giants first baseman Ryan Garko runs to first base after hitting a fly out during the fourth inning.
Giants pitcher Brian Wilson works against the Pirates during the ninth inning.
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Four runs in four games is how you lose four in a row. Forty-three strikeouts in four games is how you lose four in a row. Three for 22 combined with runners in scoring position is how your lose four in a row.
These parched Pirates have that part down, evidenced by their 3-2 loss last night to the Giants inside AT&T Park as they continued to keep falling to a season-worst number of games below .500, now 14 at 43-57.
Imagine if they scored more than just two runs: They're 40-22 when they do that, or a .645 percentage that would lead the majors.
Imagine if they evened out their run distribution, their hit distribution, and didn't bunch them together in a couple of games each week: They smacked six home runs in 21 2/3 innings last weekend, but since they've ventured 41 2/3 innings -- and 167 at-bats -- without one.
"It's unbelievable," Andy LaRoche said afterward. "Myself included. I left the bases loaded out there (in the third inning of a 1-1 game).
"Obviously, we haven't gotten a lot of runners in scoring position. The one or two times that we do, we can't come through. We're not producing near like we're capable of. We had some hard-hit balls right at them. Pearce had one."
• Game: Pirates vs. San Francisco Giants, 3:45 p.m., AT&T Park.
• TV, radio: : FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: LHP Zach Duke (9-9, 3.42) vs. RHP Matt Cain (12-2, 2.27).
• Key matchup: Freddy Sanchez is a .438 hitter off Cain, 7 for 16 with three doubles.
• Of note: The Pirates are 3-14 in the final game of their first 17 road series this year.
He was referring to Steve Pearce, who previously was 6 for 19 with three doubles since being summoned from Class AAA to replace LaRoche's gone-to-Boston brother, Adam. Last night, Pearce went 0 for 3, but in his final at-bat with Ryan Doumit on first and two out, he lashed a line toward left field. San Francisco shortstop Juan Uribe intervened. Pearce agitatedly threw his bat toward the dugout, a symbolic moment in the Pirates' recent plate woes.
It took all of two batters for the Pirates to post their first run -- and it was their first earned run in 28 innings. Andrew McCutchen opened the game with a double, and scored on Delwyn Young's hit to deep right field. Thus ended an 0-for-10 string of Pirates futility with runners in scoring position. They were 1 for 15 over the previous three games, though that one was erased at home plate in Sunday's second inning, in the form of Brandon Moss. The Pirates have just seven doubles, 22 singles and nine walks amid those whopping 43 strikeouts in their past four games entering today's getaway day game in AT&T Park, one that mercifully concludes a seven-game road trip where they've lost five of six so far.
"Whatever we're doing right now, it's not working," LaRoche added, sounding as if he's stepping into his brother's shoes as a team leader. "We got to have a more consistent approach at the plate, a plan of attack."
"It is a little bit frustrating," added Luis Cruz, who went 2 for 3 and drove in LaRoche after an eighth-inning double with a sacrifice fly. "Nobody likes to lose. But we're trying, you know. We're going to keep working to try to get out of this."
Manager John Russell, pleased by the six-hit, six-inning, two-run start by Charlie Morton (2-3), tried to stay positive about the offense. He noted LaRoche ending an 0-for-12 skid with a sixth-inning walk and that double off the left-field wall in the eighth (he vowed teammates he would homer after his flyout to end the bases-loaded third). Russell also noted the two hits in Cruz's first start of the season, for a resting Jack Wilson.
Still and all, the problems remain plentiful. Eleven runners stranded. A 2-for-7 ratio for runners in scoring position -- by far, their best in these four consecutive losses, which is damning with faint praise indeed.
"Some of our young guys are starting to come around," said Russell, who added that lineup shakeups or changes otherwise have already been tried. "Just got to put it together. Just continue to grind it out and get better."
Morton wasn't wholly pleased with his pitching performance. "What was I happy with? I felt like I was aggressive at times like I hadn't been. Got out of some jams. But the way I got into those jams was frustrating," he said. And, yes, offense bothered him greatly, too. He struck out his final two at-bats, trying and failing to lay down a one-out sacrifice bunt with Cruz at first in the fourth and both LaRoche and Ramon Vazquez aboard in the sixth.
Bunting hasn't been much of a problem for him before, but when offensive troubles reign. ...
"Just couldn't get my job done," Morton said.
And he isn't the only Pirates player with a bat in his hand who can say that lately.
First Published July 29, 2009 1:22 am