Pirates' new 'group' faltering in all facets
Delwyn Young flies out against Rockies starter Jason Marquis to end the first inning yesterday in Denver.
Relief pitcher Matt Capps, confers with catcher Jason Jaramillo after Capps gave up an RBI-triple to Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez.
Paul Maholm, reacts after giving up a two-run home run.
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DENVER -- So far, these post-trade Pirates have faced four opponents, and what they have proven conclusively is this: They can compete evenly with Major League Baseball's worst team, and they still can get the best of a Class AA pitcher.
Well, unless something changes, expect to see many more outcomes such as the 10-1 clobbering by the Colorado Rockies yesterday at Coors Field, one in which Paul Maholm was pounded for seven runs, the near-tragic offense mustered three singles, and an unsightly error by catcher Jason Jaramillo brought on the rout.
The Pirates have lost 10 of 13 games since dealing away Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez and John Grabow before the July 31 deadline, when general manager Neal Huntington declared to the remaining players, "This is the group we want to build from." Two of those victories came against the Washington Nationals, the other Tuesday when Colorado started recently recalled Class AA prospect Jhoulys Chacin.
Not much in the way of building blocks there.
Is this "group" really that bad?
- Game: Pirates vs. Chicago Cubs, 2:20 p.m., Wrigley Field.
- TV, radio: WGN, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: RHP Charlie Morton (2-5, 3.81) vs. RHP Randy Wells (8-5, 3.01). Season series: Chicago, 4-2.
- Key matchup: The Pirates vs. Wrigley demons. They are 3-12 at the Confines since Sept. 2007 - 6-21 vs. Cubs overall -- and have not won a series there since May of that year.
- Of note: Andrew McCutchen's 32 RBIs out of the leadoff spot rank second in the National League, behind the 51 of the Philadelphia Phillies' Jimmy Rollins.
"Not at all," third baseman Andy LaRoche said. "Everyone in this room is here for a reason. It's not like we're just getting random scrappy guys, and throwing them together because we're cheap. Everybody on this roster can play. Every hitter we have can hit. I know we're not showing it right now, but we have talent. And we're not playing near our potential."
First baseman Steve Pearce was asked the same question.
"Be patient," he replied. "I know it's tough to ask for patience when people in Pittsburgh have been waiting 16 years. But I've played with a lot of these guys in the minors. These are talented players. We have a lot of learning to do, but the talent's here."
If the talent turns out not to be there, of course, as Huntington also made clear with that "group" declaration, others will come up from the minors to take their place. Although 13 of the 25 active players yesterday were acquired by Huntington in trades, many more of his trade acquisitions remain prospects, including most of those with the highest ceilings.
Alas, the immediate future has shown negligible promise, and yesterday was no exception.
Offensively, the top four in the order combined to go 0 for 13, lowlighted by LaRoche's 0 for 4 out of the No. 2 spot and cleanup man Garrett Jones striking out all four times up. At No. 6, Brandon Moss looked lost in going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.
Colorado's Jason Marquis allowed one run and three singles over seven innings, but it has not mattered much which major league pitcher faces these Pirates.
"Obviously, we just couldn't get any offense going," manager John Russell said. "Marquis pitched a good game, but you get three hits, and you're not going to beat many clubs."
The Pirates' lone run, which snapped a 14-inning scoreless streak, came in the fifth after Ronny Cedeno singled, took third aggressively on a fielder's choice and scored on Andrew McCutchen's sacrifice fly that cut Colorado's lead to 3-1. Otherwise, one runner set foot on second base all day.
On the mound, Maholm's seven runs came over 6 1/3 innings, including home runs by Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes. He fell to 6-7, having one victory since the end of June, and his ERA has swelled from 2.97 on May 4 to 4.93 now.
His stuff in the fourth through sixth innings looked sharp -- two singles, four strikeouts -- but a slow start cost him: Three of his first four batters had hits, including Tulowitzki's solo home run off a 1-2 fastball intended to go high and tight but out over the plate.
"It seems like every time I miss with a pitch, it's over the middle, and they take advantage of it," Maholm said. "I got settled in. But in the seventh, I just didn't make any good pitches."
In that seventh, with runners at the corners, Jaramillo tried to pick Dexter Fowler off first base with a sleight-of-hand move that last weekend caught the St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina napping. But the throw sailed into right field. One run scored, and Fowler would, too, once Barmes homered to make it 7-1.
"That's completely my fault," Jaramillo said of the failed pickoff. "Pearce and I made eye contact, which is how it's supposed to go. If I made a good throw there, we get him."
Matt Capps gave up three more runs in the ninth.
It gets no easier: Up next are the Pirates' nemeses, the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers.
"We've just got to keep pushing," Russell said. "The guys are working hard, but we're awfully young. It's a daily grind."
First Published August 14, 2009 12:00 am