Extra-inning loss to Reds extends Pirates’ skid
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012, 12:46 a.m.
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
CINCINNATI — If Wandy Rodriguez would've had a longer night, the Pirates might've had a shorter night Monday against the Cincinnati Reds.
Rodriguez was pulled in the seventh inning after throwing just 89 pitches. Reliever Jared Hughes immediately gave up a game-tying, two-run double.
Almost three hours later — after several blown scoring chances by both teams and a near scrum on the field when Brandon Phillips was hit by a pitch — Ryan Ludwick's RBI infield single lifted the Reds over the Pirates, 4-3, in 14 innings.
The Pirates have lost four in a row and fell 12 games behind the front-running Reds in the NL Central.
Rodriguez mowed down the Reds for six innings. In the seventh, he was done in by Jay Bruce's hustle and a quick hook by manager Clint Hurdle.
With the Pirates up, 3-1, the Reds had Ludwick on first base with one out. Bruce hit a routine grounder to second baseman Brock Holt, who threw out Ludwick at second. Bruce never gave up on the play and beat the throw from shortstop Clint Barmes by a half-step.
Todd Frazier hit a hard roller to the right side, but Holt was positioned way over by second base and couldn't get to it in time.
Hurdle then replaced Rodriguez with right-hander Hughes. Switch-hitter Dioner Navarro looped a two-run double into the right-field corner.
Two runs scored, tying the game. Robbed of what could have been his third straight victory, Rodriguez wound up with a no-decison.
“I felt pretty good tonight, and I think I could've finished that inning,” Rodriguez said. “But (Hurdle) made his decision.”
Hurdle said he did not like the matchup of Rodriguez against Navarro, who bats 20 points better against lefties.
“(Rodriguez) was probably only going to get one more hitter, anyway, so I decided to make the move now,” Hurdle said. “It's the second-worst feeling for a manager when you make that move and it doesn't work. The worst one is when you leave the pitcher in and the guy hits a home run.”
In eight starts with the Pirates, Rodriguez has gone over 100 pitches three times and is averaging 95.6 pitches per outing. He went 100-plus pitches in eight of his 21 starts for the Houston Astros.
Devin Mesoraco began the bottom of the 14th with a single to left field off Rick van den Hurk (0-1), who was called up Monday from Triple-A Indianapolis.
Phillips tapped the ball a couple of feet in front of the plate and stumbled getting out of the box. Catcher Michael McKenry tried to get the forceout at second base, but Mesoraco beat the throw. Phillips reached first on the fielder's choice.
With two outs, a wild pitch advanced both runners. Ludwick singled deep into the hole at short, scoring Mesoraco.
In the eighth inning, with the score tied at 3 and one out, Hughes nicked Phillips on the leg with a pitch. As the crowd of 16,577 booed, Phillips glared at Hughes, then flipped the ball toward the mound.
“I was not expecting the ball to come back towards me,” Hughes said. “Usually the ball goes to the bat boy after someone gets hit. I was kind of startled, and it upset me.”
Said Hurdle, “That's kind of Brandon being Brandon, isn't it? We've got no problem with that.”
It seemed for a moment that the situation would escalate, as Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett stormed out of the dugout halfway onto the field — but none of his teammates followed. Order was restored, and both teams were warned by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi.
Things have been tense between the Pirates and Reds since the Aug. 3 game when Andrew McCutchen was plunked by closer Aroldis Chapman.
Phillips then stole second, and Joey Votto was intentionally walked. But Hughes got out of the jam by striking out Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick. As the Pirates left the field, Phillips yapped angrily at McCutchen.
The game had a promising start for the Pirates. They finally found a way to score against Reds right-hander Mat Latos, who didn't allow a run in his first two starts against the Pirates this season. Latos ran his shutout streak to 161⁄3 innings before Andrew McCutchen jacked a solo homer to ignite what became a three-run fourth.
After not going deep in 20 straight games, McCutchen has homered in back-to-back games. In seven games this year at Great American Ball Park, the Pirates have hit nine home runs.
With one out, the Pirates loaded the bases. Pedro Alvarez walked. Jose Tabata doubled to center — Alvarez was running hard and would've scored, but the ball one-hopped over the wall for a ground-rule double. Barmes worked a full-count walk.
With Latos pitching low and away, Rod Barajas blooped an RBI single that landed near the right-field foul line. That snapped Barajas' 0-for-13 skid with runners in scoring position.
Rodriguez, who singled in his first at-bat, hit a smash that ticked off third baseman Todd Frazier's glove. Frazier recovered quickly and made a strong throw to get Rodriguez at first base as Tabata scored to make it 3-0.
Rodriguez began the game riding a streak of 13 scoreless innings pitched. It ended after 161⁄3 innings, when Chris Heisey hit a 407-foot home run to left-center field, the first hit Rodriguez allowed.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7811.
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If, if, if ... IF the Pirates had put any offense on the field in April and May when the teams' ERA was ranked in the top 3 in the majors they would have compiled a better record than the 25-25 they had entering June and they wouldn't need to be worrying about the bad stretch in August as much. IF Neal Huntington had shown a little more guts in the off season and spent the nearly 17 million he did on players who either aren't even in the majors anymore or are but playing so poorly we wish they weren't on a single legitimate offensively minded player, they might have had that offense they needed in April and May. IF the Pirates had a manager and hitting coach who understood the importance of plate discipline and properly constructed lineups instead of seemingly coming up with new ways every night to hand the opposition outs with ill conceived bunting, base stealing and other small ball tactics they might have been able to take a few of these close games and we wouldn't be watching their play off chances fade. IF the Pirates front office and coaching staff had done what they needed to beginning with the last off season they'd be five up in first place right now with the Reds chasing them, but they didn't and it's time to stop making excuses for their incompetence. The Pirates didn't lose last night because of anything the pitchers did or didn't do, they lost once again because of the multiple instances of base runners on with 1 or fewer outs brought hitter to the plate who is utterly incapable of performing in most situations let alone in critical ones.