Van Benschoten shelled again ... for last time?
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If anyone in the crowd of 27,794 at PNC Park last night was muttering about the Pirates' latest players-for-prospects trade, they probably were not doing so for long.
Not when John Van Benschoten gave up another touchdown in a 9-6 loss to the San Diego Padres, Major League Baseball's most feeble offensive team.
And certainly not when it served as a painfully timely example of why management earlier in the day sent Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte to the New York Yankees for four youngsters, including three pitchers.
Van Benschoten's latest debacle -- perhaps his last in a Pittsburgh uniform -- included seven runs on six hits, including three-run home runs by Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Kouzmanoff, and four walks. Sixty-one pitches, 33 strikes.
- Game: Pirates vs. San Diego Padres, 1:35 p.m., PNC Park.
- TV/Radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WPGB-FM (104.7).
- Pitching: LHP Paul Maholm (7-6, 3.92) vs. RHP Jake Peavy (7-6, 2.76).
- Key matchup: This will be the first matchup of two winning starting pitchers in Pittsburgh since May 4, when Ian Snell was 2-1 and Washington's Tim Redding was 3-2.
- Of note: Jason Bay is the Pirates' fourth player to have five consecutive 20-home-run seasons. Willie Stargell had 13 in 1964-76, Ralph Kiner seven in 1946-52, Frank Thomas six in 1953-58.
Season ERA in five starts: 10.48.
Career ERA in 19 starts: 9.04.
Manager John Russell's assessment told the story better than any numbers could.
"He didn't throw well," Russell said. "Not a lot to say."
Asked if he thought about pulling Van Benschoten even earlier: "Then you're burning eight innings off the bullpen. This already hurt us bad."
Too early to say if he will be out of the rotation?
"Yeah. Too early."
Maybe, but not by much.
Immediately after the game, general manager Neal Huntington and some other brass huddled in Russell's office, no doubt going over pitching options. The staff already was down a man. That is expected to be addressed ultimately with the addition of Jeff Karstens, one of the prospects in the trade. But Karstens is a starter, and relief is needed, especially after Van Benschoten cost the National League's most taxed bullpen another 7 1/3 innings.
A reliever could be recalled today from Class AAA Indianapolis, probably Marino Salas once again.
Beyond that, Yoslan Herrera will make his next scheduled start Tuesday, and Karstens probably will take Van Benschoten's next turn.
Van Benschoten displayed a firm grasp of reality afterward.
"It's disappointing," he said. "It's disappointing to lose. It's disappointing to not be able to finish the second inning. I gave up four in the first, and I went out for the second thinking, 'OK, this is all they get.' And everything I threw was extremely flat."
And this after a modestly encouraging five innings Monday in Houston -- three runs in five innings -- earned him this start.
"I don't know how to explain it. I just never had a feel."
The Pirates, losers of two since winning four in a row, trailed, 7-1, when Russell took the ball from Van Benschoten, and Franquelis Osoria came on to give up two more home runs, one by Nick Hundley and a second for Gonzalez. It was 9-1 after four innings.
By the fifth, Russell began pulling starters one-by-one like a basketball coach, resting Nate McLouth, Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay. And, to the credit of some of those players, they performed better than the usual guys taking off the long sweatpants.
Jason Michaels, one of those, hit a two-run home in the fifth to make it 9-3. Still-scorching Adam LaRoche hit his 15th and third in two nights the next inning. Michaels added another RBI with a two-out single, and it was 9-5. And Bautista, another of those subs, hit his 15th home run in the ninth.
The brightest spot: T.J. Beam turned in four spectacularly efficient innings of relief, allowing one hit while throwing 25 of 31 pitches for strikes.
"Outstanding," Russell said. "About as efficient as you get. He went right at guys and got quick outs. That's what we're looking for. That's what we like."
Steve Pearce, assigned Xavier Nady's stall in the clubhouse and his place in right field, went 1 for 4 with a walk in the first of what might be many chances to prove his worth down the stretch. But when the Pirates pulled within 9-6 in the ninth and LaRoche singled, the Padres turned to closer Trevor Hoffman for what might have been the easiest of his record 544 saves: One changeup, and a flyout from Pearce.
Gonzalez finished 3 for 5 with four RBIs, and his home runs gave him 25.
First Published July 27, 2008 12:00 am