Pirates losing streak reaches double digits after 7-3 loss to Padres
Andrew McCutchen watches the final outs Sunday against the San Diego Padres in the Pirates' 10th consecutive loss.
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Neil Walker sat slumped in his clubhouse chair and stared blankly into his locker shortly after the Pirates lost their 10th consecutive game.
It is a routine he follows after every game to give himself a chance to reflect.
But Sunday he slouched a little lower. He stayed a little longer. His mind wandered a little further.
"When the game ends, you try to clear your mind and try to move on," Walker said. "But some days are tougher than others. Today, reflecting on this homestand, has kind of been tough."
Game: Pirates vs. Giants, 10:15 p.m., AT&T Park, San Francisco.
TV, radio: Root Sports, WPGB-FM 104.7.
Pitching: RHP Charlie Morton (8-6, 3.80) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (9-1, 2.19).
Key matchup: Vogelsong vs. Neil Walker. The Pirates second baseman is 3 for 3 with a double and an RBI against Vogelsong.
Hidden stat: Though he is not as well known as the Giants' high-profile starters (Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain), Vogelsong, a former Pirate, has the team's best ERA.
The Padres beat the Pirates, 7-3, Sunday at PNC Park. And like several of the nine previous losses, this one was not close.
After a challenging road trip against Philadelphia and Atlanta, two of the National League's best teams, this homestand was supposed to be a chance for the Pirates to rebound -- a seven-game stretch against two of the National League's worst teams.
Instead, they made history by going winless in a homestand that lasted longer than six games for the first time in the franchise's 125-year history.
"I never thought we'd throw up a donut at home," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Despite being swept by the Phillies, the Pirates were encouraged when they returned to Pittsburgh last week. They scored a lot of runs against some of the top pitchers in the league and nearly won the series finale.
"We were still upbeat coming home from Philly," outfielder Matt Diaz said. "We had high expectations for this homestand, and needless to say those expectations weren't even close to being met."
They leave Pittsburgh with more doubt than confidence, more questions than answers.
"Maybe throughout the course of the game if something doesn't go our way, in the back of peoples' minds there could be a 'here we go again' mentality," Diaz said. "But I don't really sense that too much. Obviously I can't put my finger on it, or we'd stop it."
The Pirates have been outscored by 45 runs in this 10-game slide -- eight more runs than they have scored in that stretch. The losing streak is the longest since they lost 12 consecutive games in June of last season. Their seven consecutive home losses are the most since losing the final eight games of a 10-game homestand in 2009.
The characteristics that helped the Pirates climb seven games over .500 -- strong pitching, good defense and timely hitting -- have been missing. So, too, has the team's greatest mental strength: its ability to let go.
"Maybe it needs to be our old cry [from] before: Forget it, get it tomorrow," Diaz said. "It's hard to do when it compounds 10 times."
Sunday, starter Kevin Correia appeared as if he was pitching well enough to stop the losing streak.
Then, things went awry.
He gave up a hit and walked two batters to load the bases with two outs. He nearly ended the inning by striking out Logan Forsythe, his pitch on a 1-2 count barely missing the strike zone.
Forsythe connected with the next pitch, a grounder that split the infield, rolled into center field and scored two runs to give the Padres a 3-0 lead.
Pirate batters were dumbfounded by Padres starter Mat Latos, who allowed two hits in the first seven innings.
Latos throws a fastball that has "sneaky" movement, Walker said, and he was using his offspeed pitches effectively.
"That made his fastball even better," said Walker, who went 0 for 2 with a walk.
Latos left the game in the eighth inning after allowing back-to-back no-out singles, but by then, the Padres had a 7-0 lead.
The recent struggles have the Pirates welcoming a trip to visit the defending world champion San Francisco Giants in a three-game series that starts today. Things won't get any easier from there, as the Pirates will play two series each against the Brewers and Cardinals in the next couple of weeks. Sandwiched in the middle is a home series against the Reds, who recently bumped the Pirates to fourth place in the National League Central Division.
Hurdle hopes a road trip will help them break out of this funk -- much the same way some players hoped one week ago the friendly surroundings of PNC Park would help get them back on track.
"This obviously is not fun," Walker said.
First Published August 8, 2011 12:00 am