Pirates' Yates, Burnett stung late by Mets, 7-3
The Pirates' Jeff Karstens delivers against the New York Mets in the first inning last night at Citi Field in New York.
Nyjer Morgan cuts off a hit down the left field line limiting the Mets' Alex Cora to a single in the seventh inning last night.
The Mets' Luis Castillo steals second base ahead of the tag from Pirates' shortstop Brian Bixler in the first inning of last night's game at Citi Field in New York.
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NEW YORK -- The three-part formula is becoming numbingly familiar for these Pirates ...
1. Starting pitcher does well.
2. Offense does next to nothing.
3. Bullpen gives it up late.
Tyler Yates gave up a tiebreaking single to New York's Carlos Beltran in the eighth inning, Sean Burnett then gave up Carlos Delgado's three-run home run, and the Pirates went on to lose their sixth in a row, 7-3, to the Mets last night in their first visit to the new Citi Field.
Losers of 10 of their past 11, the Pirates also fell into a last-place tie with the Houston Astros in the Central Division.
"We were playing well. We were battling," Yates said. "This hurts a lot."
That was evident: Burnett was visibly furious, kicking at his stall, snapping off sharp words into a towel in a vain attempt to hide his emotions.
Not a happy place.
"We had opportunities," manager John Russell said. "Things just aren't clicking."
And the attitude?
"The attitude's fine," Russell said. "We're pretty much as upbeat as you can be, still coming to the ballpark with a focus. We're still pitching well, playing good D. We just need our bats to get going."
That most assuredly did not happen in this one.
The offense, such as it is, squeezed out two runs over six innings against Jon Niese, a 22-year-old left-hander freshly promoted from the minors. He had told New York reporters he was "shocked" at the move, and he had cause: He was 0-2 with a 6.55 ERA for Class AAA Buffalo.
In all, the Pirates had nine hits, two for extra bases, including a gift double for Nate McLouth that plopped between two outfielders. And, over these six losses, they have scored just 16 runs and batted .199 with three home runs.
"The numbers speak for themselves," third baseman Andy LaRoche said. "We haven't been getting runners on. And, when we do, we haven't been driving them in. We've got to start doing little things right."
He emphasized the little aspect.
"We're not a team that hits home runs. We've got to get back to playing scrappy."
Russell reiterated his view that the team's approach remains solid, but Niese, who had walked eight batters in 22 minor league innings, walked none last night. And the Pirates pushed him to a three-ball count only four times.
Moreover, as LaRoche indicated, they are doing little in key at-bats: In the sixth, with the score tied, 2-2, there were two aboard with one out, and Brandon Moss struck out swinging over a meaty Niese fastball -- up and over the heart of the plate -- and Robinzon Diaz lined out. The next inning, with two aboard and one out again, Freddy Sanchez flied out, and McLouth grounded out.
Sanchez and McLouth saw a total of three pitches.
Moss, who is looking increasingly like a candidate for a demotion to Class AAA Indianapolis, is now 3 for 26 with runners on base, 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position and, thanks to his current hitless streak of 10 at-bats, .185 overall.
The lone bright spot was a rare solid start for Jeff Karstens, who held New York to two runs and seven hits over six innings. The Mets tagged him in the first on Delgado's two-run single, but that was it. No walks, no home runs and, thus, nothing like his previous three starts that had put his place in the rotation in serious jeopardy.
Karstens and pitching coach Joe Kerrigan had three side sessions between his most recent start Sunday and this one -- two more than usual -- with an emphasis on first-pitch strikes. The result was 19 of those to 24 batters faced.
"His command really came back, especially the changeup," Russell said.
Karstens said there was some minor tinkering with the delivery, but that the far greater push was to prepare more for the opponent.
"My last start was a reality check," Karstens said of giving up five runs in as many innings to the Cincinnati Reds in a 5-0 loss. "I knew that if I didn't improve, I wasn't going to be here. I went home and looked myself in the mirror. I knew there were a lot more things I could do by coming in early. I did more this week than I'd done previously."
Yates, now owner of a staff-worst 8.71 ERA, had set down the Mets in the seventh, but, with the score 2-2 entering the eighth, Jose Reyes led off by lashing a single to center.
"Hanging slider," Yates said.
Luis Castillo tried to bunt Reyes over but, instead, drew a four-pitch walk.
"They're trying to give us an out, and I can't throw a strike," Yates said. "That killed us."
Actually, that fell to Beltran, batting a spectacular .377, when he dropped a ball just over the head of LaRoche for an RBI single to put the Mets ahead.
Burnett relieved, and Delgado greeted him by launching his 1-1 slider high and deep beyond right-center, deepest part of the park, to make it 6-2. Previously, left-handed batters were 4 for 40 against Burnett.
"Didn't work out too well," Russell said of his desired lefty-lefty matchup.
Game: Pirates vs. New York Mets, 1:10 p.m., Citi Field.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (3-0, 2.97) vs. RHP John Maine (2-2, 5.20)
Key matchup: New York leadoff man Jose Reyes is 5 for 13 vs. Maholm, with two steals.
Of note: The Mets, with their largely left-handed lineup, will be facing a left-handed starter for just the fourth time in 29 games. They are 2-1 in those games.
First Published May 9, 2009 12:00 am