Reyes' 1st-inning home run sets tone for Pirates' loss
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Just six pitches into last night -- when New York Mets leadoff hitter Jose Reyes reversed the direction of a thigh-high fastball, planting it into the left-field seats -- there was a hint that Pirates pitcher Zach Duke's struggles would continue.
The hint quickly transformed into reality as Duke dug his team a four-run hole after the second inning and the Pirates fell, 7-4, against the Mets at PNC Park.
It was Duke's seventh consecutive loss; his record plummeted to 4-11.
- Game: Pirates vs. New York Mets, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: RHP Jeff Karstens (2-1, 1.23) vs. LHP Johan Santana (10-7, 2.89).
- Key matchup: Chris Gomez is 8 for 17 with a double and two walks against Santana. How many hitters can boast of something like that?
- Of note: Despite having multiple closers, the Pirates' 41-1 record when leading after seven innings ranks second in Major League Baseball to the New York Yankees' 53-1.
He threw 47 pitches in the first two innings. His night ended after six. He yielded six runs -- all were earned.
The left-hander hasn't won since June 9, and last night he couldn't prevent the Pirates from losing for the sixth time in their past eight games.
"I came out the first inning, didn't have any fastball command, and they made me pay for it," Duke said. "I'm trying anything, to be honest. I've tried different warmup techniques, I've tried different routines. It is just one of those things."
One of those things the Pirates couldn't fight back from -- even though they tried valiantly.
Trailing, 7-1, the Pirates got a ninth-inning Jack Wilson RBI double and an Eddie Kunz wild pitch that allowed Steve Pearce to race home to make it 7-3. A Nate McLouth single chased Wilson home to cut it to 7-4. But, with two men on, Mets reliever Pedro Feliciano got Ryan Doumit to fly out and Adam LaRoche to ground out to close it.
"Too little, too late I guess you could say," said Pirates manager John Russell.
After Reyes' blast, the Mets scored two more in the first on an RBI double by Carlos Beltran and Fernando Tatis' RBI single.
In the second, Reyes, the National League hits leader with 160, struck again. This time, he followed a single by Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez with a triple off the base of the center-field wall to push the lead to 4-0.
"We got down big and we haven't been swinging the bats well, so it was a tough chore to try to come back," Russell said.
"It was nice to see the push in the ninth ... but it was just too big of a hole we dug early. [Duke] is just missing his spots, and it just seems to take him two or three innings for him to get into some type of rhythm and, when that happens, a lot of the damage is done."
When Duke gave up a two-run homer to Mets catcher Ramon Castro that cleared the left-center field fence in the deepest part of the park in the sixth, the Pirates' pitcher drew more than a small smattering of boos from the sellout crowd of 37,506.
While Duke struggled mightily, Martinez took the game by the scruff of its neck, routinely working ahead in the count and changing speeds masterfully through the first six innings before hitting a speed bump in the seventh.
In that seventh, Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche homered on the first pitch to make it 6-1.
It was as much of a charge as the Pirates would put into Martinez, who pitched efficiently, throwing 95 pitches -- 64 for strikes -- in his seven innings, giving up eight hits and the one run.
The Mets scored their final run in the eighth, when Pirates reliever Romulo Sanchez issued a bases-loaded walk to pinch hitter Daniel Murphy.
First Published August 17, 2008 12:00 am