Russell frustrated by Pirates' 2-0 loss to Sox
Zach Duke nearly gets hit by Chicago White Sox's Scott Podsednik's single during the first inning of last night's baseball game in Chicago.
Zach Duke pitches during last night's game against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago.
The Chicago White Sox's Paul Konerko, left, is forced out at second by Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson, right, during the fourth inning of last night's baseball game in Chicago.
Share with others:
CHICAGO -- It is not easy to rile John Russell.
The Pirates' manager rarely emerges from the dugout, rarely even raises his voice.
But there was no mistaking his ire after a flatliner of a 2-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox last night at U.S. Cellular Field, one in which the offense squeezed out two singles in eight innings off Gavin Floyd, then went 1-2-3 against closer Bobby Jenks.
That would be the same Gavin Floyd who entered with a 7.71 ERA.
And this would be the same opponent tagged with 20 runs the previous day by the Minnesota Twins.
Was Floyd that good?
• Game: Pirates vs. Chicago White Sox, 7:05 p.m., U.S. Cellular Field.
• TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
• Pitching: RHP Ross Ohlendorf (5-3, 4.31) vs. LHP Clayton Richard (0-0, 4.33).
• Key matchup: Richard, a slider specialist, gives up plenty of contact, as evidenced by his opponents' .296 average and only 15 strikeouts in 27 innings. He will be making just his third start after 12 relief appearances.
• Of note: Ohlendorf, despite his solid early showing, is the only member of the Pirates' rotation who has not reached 100 pitches in a game. His high of 95 came April 26 in San Diego.
"Looked like it, I guess," Russell replied flatly. "You know, it's frustrating. He threw a good game, but Zach, I thought, was more efficient."
The Pirates' Zach Duke pitched his second complete game, allowing two runs and six hits over eight innings that required only 88 pitches.
"But they found a way to score, and we didn't," Russell continued.
So, were the Pirates' hitters that bad?
Maybe something in the collective approach?
They drew only two walks, but 16 of Floyd's 28 batters got ahead in the count, and the sole reason he did not reach the ninth was a pitch count of 103.
Russell generally shrugs off talk of a collective approach when the offense sags, but he made an exception this time.
"I think we hit one ball hard tonight," he replied. "You're not going to score many runs if you don't hit the ball hard."
It might or might not have been related, but Russell spent a half-hour in his office with hitting coach Don Long immediately after the game, and no one who emerged looked terribly pleased.
Keep in mind that all this came one night after a Class AAA pitcher making his major league debut, Craig Stammen, held them to one hit through his first six innings in Washington.
About those hard-hit balls: The first single, with two outs in the fifth, was Jason Jaramillo's three-bouncer through the infield. Brandon Moss lined a single to right in the seventh. Only four other balls reached the outfield.
"We just didn't get anything going," second baseman Freddy Sanchez said. "But I'll tell you what: Floyd was good. That's the best curveball I've seen all year, and he worked that cutter in there, too. You just tip your cap to someone like that."
"Really good," outfielder Nyjer Morgan said.
"Nothing over the middle," Moss said.
The players' views seem to run counter to Russell's, but Floyd's numbers, depending on the viewpoint, could back either side. On one hand, Floyd was a 17-game winner last season, and two of his three previous outings saw him go seven innings with two or fewer runs, seven or more strikeouts. On the other, five teams had drilled him for six or more runs, and his opponents were batting .290 off him.
He struck out eight last night.
It was clear how the other side felt about Floyd.
"That's the Gavin we like to have," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He got behind in the count, but he threw his breaking ball and changeup to get out of it. That's the guy we know."
"This is the Gavin I'd like to have, too," Floyd said when told of that remark.
Guillen said of Duke, with a laugh: "He's out in the bullpen right now, finishing his game with an extra 40 pitches. They have to keep the lights on."
Turning serious, he added, "The kid threw strikes."
Russell again used language stronger than his norm to praise Duke.
"I thought Zach was great. It was a great game. He was very efficient, got quick outs. He obviously pitched well enough to win."
Duke limited Chicago to one small-ball run in the third -- Alexei Ramirez singled, stole second, was bunted to third and scored on a groundout -- then Ramirez's solo home run in the eighth.
Duke held an opponent to two earned runs or less for the sixth time in nine starts, and his ERA fell to 2.77, but his record fell, too, to 5-4.
"I want the Ramirez ball back, but I was pretty well on tonight," Duke said.
Especially strong was Duke's continuing pounding of the inside part of the plate.
"The results speak for themselves," he said. "It's opened up everything for me, the changeup away, my sinker, and I'm getting some called strikes and bad reactions, too. It's really taken my game back to the level I want it to be."
Morgan and Sanchez, the top 1-2 punch in the National League in the early going, went a combined 0 for 8 for a second consecutive night. Sanchez is especially cold, in a 5-for-36 slump.
The Pirates, beginning interleague play for the summer, are 63-104 against the American League.