Friday, June 13th, 2008 by Adam Wagner

Pirates fail to reach .500 again

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For all that has been made of the Pirates’ struggles in interleague play, such as the fact that they have the worst record in the entire major leagues over the history of the competition, they should be able to defeat the Baltimore Orioles, especially when the game means reaching the .500 plateau that means so much to Pirate fans everywhere. The disappointing part of the game, however, was not that the Pirates failed to reach .500, but that their best pitcher thus far let them down and that John Russell managed his team out of a win for the second day in a row en route to a 9-6 loss in a game which the Pirates led 6-1 at one point.

The Orioles struck first, loading the bases against the abnormally inconsistent Phil Dumatrait in the first inning. Dumatrait got out of the inning with only one run surrendered, though, by getting a double play ball from Aubrey Huff and then getting Luke Scott to ground out.

The Pirates then went on a roll, spotting Dumatrait a 6-1 lead through various methods including:

  • A two-run single by Jack Wilson that scored Xavier Nady and Doug Mientkiewicz, promptly followed by a Jose Bautista out, of course. Wilson has been clutch since getting back from the disabled list, proving that he’s a vital part of the Pirates’ offense.
  • A Mientkiewicz single in the 3rd that scored Jason Bay. Mientkiewicz received the start over Adam LaRoche because John Russell didn’t want to subject LaRoche to the left-handed Burres and also wanted to let him sit out for one more day.
  • The Mientkiewicz single was followed by a Jason Michaels three-run home run. Michaels is sitting .500 with runners in scoring position with 18 RBIs and if the Pirates trade either Bay or Nady at the trade deadline, he will fit in very well as a starter in the outfield.

The issue, however, came after the Pirates got that 6-1 lead, particularly in the Orioles’ half of the fifth inning. (Dumatrait gave up one run in the fourth, so it was 6-2 at that point.) Dumatrait has had control problems at times and, in finishing the game with five walks, they came about in a big way tonight, particularly in the fifth.

First, the Pirates’ lefty walked Brian Roberts. Then, he surrendered a single to Nick Markakis that moved Roberts to third. Then Dumatrait walked Melvin Mora, moving Markakis up to second and into scoring position. From that point, it was a foregone conclusion that runs were going to score and three of them did, energizing Camden Yards and leaving the game for John Russell and his misuse of the bullpen to lose. (Well, the Pirates having their last 17 batters retired didn’t help matters any, allowing the Orioles to just take complete command of the game.)

Franquelis Osoria allowed two runs in his two-thirds of an inning, Sean Burnett screwed up for the second day in a row and allowed two runs and then Marino Salas managed to get out of the eighth inning without further damage. The most important part of all of that is that the names Grabow, Yates, Marte or Capps aren’t there. Russell didn’t trust his four best relievers in a one-run game, instead leaving it up to two pitchers who have proven over the last week that they can’t be trusted (Osoria and Burnett) to lose the game.

We have all seen nutty decisions by Russell this season and they had thus far worked out, but he completely cost his team tonight’s game with his inability to manage the bullpen and should seriously consider how he could use it better. Also, Sean Burnett shouldn’t be in the major leagues. There can no longer be any doubt of that.

The magic number is now down to 47. Or it is back down to two, depending on whether your glass is half-empty or half-full, even though if Russell continues to manage like he has thus far, half-empty may be the more logical choice.

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  • Oh, Pittsburgh…

    You make it so tough to be a fan.

    You had one of the best producing outfields in the bigs, and were tantalizingly close to making it above .500.

    So what do you do?

    Sure, trade away the best you’ve got for more “prospects”.

    But do we really care to see these prospects develop into stars, surrounded by one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, just so that they can, in turn, be traded away for other middling prospects?

    Will the Pirates ever win with Nutting at the helm?

    Help us, Mr. Cuban, you’re our only hope.

  • Cuban is buying the Texas Rangers, we are doomed as Pirate fans, doomed I say!!!

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