Pirates' McDonald's troubles continue in loss to Astros
HOUSTON — James McDonald is floundering, but the Pirates have no plans to take him out of the rotation, even for just a start or two.
McDonald's second-half slide continued Sunday, as the Pirates were drubbed, 9-5, by the Houston Astros. The right-hander gave up five runs in five innings.
In four starts since the All-Star break, McDonald is 1-2 with an 8.71 ERA and a 2.28 WHIP. It's a sharp contrast to his dazzling first half, when McDonald went 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP.
“Every year I've pitched, I've been in a situation like this, trying to fight my way out of rough (stretch),” McDonald said. “I've got some work ahead of me.”
It starts Monday, when McDonald will sit down for a frank evaluation season with manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage.
Having McDonald skip a start “could be talked about” later, Hurdle said. For now, McDonald remains slated to pitch Saturday against the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds.
“In society, we like to kick things to the curb and say, ‘He's no good, get somebody else,' ” Hurdle said. “You have to throw a kid a lifesaver every time he runs into turbulence. His last start before the All-Star break was lights out. So, where's the disconnect? That's what I'm looking for.”
McDonald (10-5) struggled with an inconsistent release point, lacked fastball command and threw too few first-pitch strikes. He threw 110 pitches and faced 27 batters in five innings.
“Physically, I'm fine,” McDonald said. “I'm just not making pitches I should be making and I'm getting behind guys.”
The Astros snapped a 12-game losing streak and also picked up their first win in their past 10 games against the Pirates.
The Astros lucked into a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Jose Altuve walked. Marwin Gonzalez hit a sharp grounder to the left side. Shortstop Jordy Mercer, who was breaking to cover second base, tried to make a diving stop but the ball caromed off his glove.
“It was a double play ball, no doubt, if (Altuve) wasn't running,” Mercer said. “All I could do was just try to knock it down.”
The ball rolled only a few inches into the outfield grass. Gonzalez sprinted into second base with what was scored a double. Altuve went to third, then scored on J.D. Martinez's sacrifice fly.
The Pirates grabbed a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Neil Walker walked, and Garrett Jones blasted a home run deep into the second deck of seats in right field.
“It felt great off the bat,” Jones said. “I knew I got it right away.”
It was clearly a fair ball, but there still was some room for debate. Jones homer, his 16th of the season, traveled an estimated 423 feet.
The fifth inning was disastrous for McDonald. Martinez led off with a blooper to right, but Jones couldn't decide how to play it, tumbled and let the ball land untouched for a triple.
Scott Moore singled through the drawn-in infield. Former Pirate Steve Pearce doubled. With one out and the bases loaded, Schafer hit a grounder to score Pearce and give the Astros a 5-2 lead.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7811.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates grind out extra-inning win against testy Tigers
- Bush Center displays rare Honus Wagner baseball card
- Pirates notebook: Cervelli gets 1st career DH start
- Gameday: Pirates at Detroit, July 1, 2015
- Pirates hope 1st baseman Alvarez starts to regain power stroke
- Gameday: Pirates at Tigers, June 30, 2015
- Starkey: Cervelli’s inspiration
- Pirates notebook: Power shortage continues, Tabata designated for assignment
- Pirates notebook: Polanco’s slides under scrutiny
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Reds, June 25, 2015
- Finally healthy, former 1st-rounder Joe finding his way