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Jones' late-inning heroics not enough in Pirates' loss

AP
The Pirates' Garrett Jones watches his two-run homer in the ninth inning that tied the Pirates with the San Diego Padres during a baseball game Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012 in San Diego. It was Jones' second home run of the game. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, 2:06 a.m.
 

SAN DIEGO — When right-hander A.J. Burnett arrived at Petco Park on Tuesday afternoon, he saw the Pirates' gray uniform tops hanging at the lockers. Mindful the team has lost a few games in the gray recently, Burnett grumbled aloud that he wanted to wear the alternate black jersey.

When the game began, the Pirates were dressed in their standard road gray pants — and the black tops.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, the San Diego Padres put up a tougher fight than the clubhouse manager did. Chase Headley's two-run homer in the bottom of the 10th inning lifted the Padres to a 7-5 victory.

In the 10th, reliever Daniel McCutchen (0-1), who was called up from the minors before the game, walked leadoff hitter Will Venable on six pitches. Venable stole second, and Headley launched a full-count pitch deep into the right-field seats.

The Pirates blew a one-run lead by letting the Padres score single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. In the ninth, Garrett Jones hit a two-run, two-out homer to tie it, 5-5.

Going deep one time at cavernous Petco Park is tough enough, but Jones also hammered a solo shot in the sixth inning. With 21 homers, Jones ranks third on the team behind Andrew McCutchen (24) and Pedro Alvarez (23). It's the first time since 2008 that three Pirates each have 20-plus homers.

If only Burnett could change his luck in August as easily as the Pirates change their jerseys.

Throughout his career, Burnett's performance has dipped in August. It's the month in which he's posted his worst ERA (4.52) and WHIP (1.36). It's also when his strikeout rate drops and his walks rate rises.

Burnett was coming off a pair of shaky outings. On Aug. 11, he gave up five runs in a loss against the Padres. Five days later, he yielded six runs in a 10-6 win against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

On Tuesday, Burnett worked 6 12 innings and gave up four runs on 12 hits and a season-high five walks. His ERA in four starts this month is 5.27.

The Pirates have been outscored, 87-59, in first innings this year, a minus-28 run differential that makes it their worst inning. Carlos Quentin worsened that trend with a two-run double off Burnett that gave the Padres a 2-0 lead.

Jose Tabata and Travis Snider each singled with one out in the third. McCutchen hit a fielder's choice grounder that forced out Snider at second, but Alexi Amarista's hurried throw sailed over the head of first baseman Yonder Alonso. Tabata scored on the error.

The Pirates gambled — and lost — on a chance to tie it in the fourth. With Jones at first and two outs, Clint Barmes doubled into the left-field corner. Quentin's throw went to second baseman Amarista, who fired a perfect relay to catcher Yasmani Grandal. With the plate blocked, Jones slid into the tag.

In the sixth, the Pirates came up with two runs and knocked starter Jason Marquis out of the game. Jones homered, Alvarez walked and Clint Barmes singled. Nick Vincent replaced Marquis and served up a run-scoring double by Rod Barajas. It snapped an 0-for-8 skid by Barajas and was just his second RBI since July 31.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com.

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