Relief pitching falters, Pirates lose to Diamondbacks, 5-1
Arizona Diamondbacks' Joe Saunders tries to field a bunt by Pirates' Alex Presley during the fifth inning. Presley reached on an infield hit on the play.
Pirates' Neil Walker throws the ball to first base as Chris Young attempts to break up the double play.
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PHOENIX -- Another decent outing from a Pirate starter ended in a loss Monday night.
But this time, the offense can take only part of the blame.
Pirate relievers gave up a pair of homers to turn a close game into a rout as the Pirates lost to the Diamondbacks, 5-1, in front of 17,366 fans on Monday night at Chase Field.
The Pirates are now 1-6 on a western road swing that ends Wednesday here in Phoenix. And, like most other games this trip, the offense was ineffective. Pirate batters stranded seven baserunners, struck out eight times and sat idly as a close game spiraled out of control.
The Pirates are the first major league team since the Rangers in 1988 to go through their first 10 games without scoring or allowing more than five runs in any contest, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They were the last National League team to do so, in 1965.
Starter Erik Bedard lasted five innings and, despite having a tough time finding the strike zone, kept the game within reach for the Pirate offense.
- Game: Pirates vs. Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m., Chase Field, Phoenix.
- TV, Radio: Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7).
- Probables: RHP Jeff Karstens (0-1, 3.27) vs. RHP Ian Kennedy (2-0, 2.84)
- Key matchup: Karstens vs. Diamondbacks. Karstens has a 1.91 ERA in seven career outings against Arizona.
- Hidden stat: Tonight included, the Pirates have yet to face the same-handed starting pitcher on consecutive nights through 11 games this season.
"You like that he minimized the damage, but you don't like the inconsistency of the command," manager Clint Hurdle said.
But when Bedard left the game, the Diamondbacks inflicted serious damage. Chris Young hit a two-run homer to left field off Evan Meek, three pitches after Bedard left the game in the sixth inning. That gave the Diamondbacks a 4-1 lead -- a seemingly insurmountable deficit for a Pirates offense that has score more than four runs only once this season.
And if their hopes hadn't officially sunk after Young's blast, they were officially drowned in the seventh inning. Gerardo Parra smacked a pinch-hit home run off Chris Resop that splashed in the swimming pool beyond the right-centerfield wall, to make it 5-1.
It was the third loss in as many starts for Bedard, though the left-handed pitcher has yet to allow more than two earned runs in any of his starts.
His counterpart, Joe Saunders, looked shaky in the first inning -- allowing four baserunners -- but settled in quickly to take command of the game. The first was the only of his seven innings pitched in which he allowed more than one baserunner. He earned his first win in his second start of the season, giving up one earned run on six hits. He walked two and struck out five batters.
"I thought we'd be able to throw more at him," Hurdle said. "But we weren't. We didn't. It was a night where he did move the ball around, but we had pitches to hit. We're not squaring balls up we have the opportunity to hit."
After tallying three first-inning hits, the Pirates collected only three hits the rest of the game.
Meek and Resop combined to allow five hits over three innings.
Bedard lacked the command of his pitches that lifted him to stellar starts in his first two outings of the season. He allowed three hits but walked four batters and threw 47 of his 97 pitches for balls.
"I guess I threw strikes when I needed it, but it wasn't a very good outing," Bedard said. "I had a few walks. But in the end, I tried to limit the damage when my stuff is not there."
Of the eight batters he faced in the second and third inning, six of them faced three-ball counts. But impatient hitters -- and some strong Pirate defense -- kept the game knotted at 1-1 while Bedard struggled to find his location.
With runners on first and second with one out in the second, Ryan Roberts swung at a 3-0 pitch and grounded into an inning-ending double play. In the next inning, Bedard struck out Saunders and Willie Bloomquist on full counts.
"Those are the games when you don't have your pinpoint control you try to limit the damage," Bedard said. "It could have gone way worse than it did."
But the Diamondbacks finally capitalized on Bedard's command woes in the fourth. He retired the first two batters of the inning -- though each faced a three-ball count -- before issuing a pair of two-out walks. Roberts singled, scoring Paul Goldschmidt from second and giving the Diamondbacks a 2-1 lead.
Bedard squandered a one-run lead in the bottom of the first by leaving an 0-1 fastball over the plate to Aaron Hill, which the second baseman drilled over the Diamondbacks bullpen in left field to tie the score. It was Bedard's first home run allowed of the season. It was the second consecutive start in which the Pirates' offense built a one-run lead that Bedard let slip away in the next half of the inning.
Between the second and fourth innings, 10 of 13 Diamondback batters faced a three-ball count.
The Pirates took the first lead of the contest for the third consecutive game. Andrew McCutchen, Casey McGehee and Neil Walker hit three consecutive two-out singles in the first. Walker's single scored McCutchen from second to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
But the Pirates went on to lose two of those three games.
First Published April 17, 2012 10:23 am