Pirates' losing streak extended to 6 games

Travis Sawchik
| Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, 10:21 p.m.

Vance Worley went east-west too often with his pitches Monday, and the Pirates continue to go south. The Braves scored six runs off Worley in the first inning en route to a 7-3 win, extending the Pirates' longest losing streak of the season to six games.

After many of the Pirates' woes came late during a winless road trip, the struggles came early in a return to PNC Park. Jason Heyward led off the game with a home run, and three pitches later Andrelton Simmons belted another Worley fastball into the seats. The first five Braves reached safely.

When the dust from Braves' baserunners settled, Atlanta had scored six runs on five hits and an error in the first. Only the Rockies have scored more runs in an inning against the Pirates this season. The Rockies scored seven runs in the seventh inning on July 25 in Denver, and, yes, Ernesto Frieri pitched in that inning.

“The cutter was running east and west, the sinker is going east-west,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Worley. “Everything was mid-thigh.”

Said Worley: “I was just missing and staying flat.”

The Pirates' season has fallen into a precarious position as the club is six games behind Milwaukee in the division and two games back in the wild-card race.

Worley recovered to pitch five scoreless innings after the first, but too much damage had been done.

If one is in search of silver linings, Starling Marte continued to rake since returning from the disabled list, homering twice against Braves starter Ervin Santana. And Pedro Alvarez did not make an error in his first start at first base. Alvarez's first 4,788 major league innings had come at third base.

“It's different, it's new,” Alvarez said of playing first. “We've been preparing for this, so I don't know if odd is the word, but it was definitely different.”

The first ball thrown toward Alvarez came in the first when Neil Walker tried to complete a double play with a quick pivot toss. Walker's throw went wide right of Alvarez, allowing two runs to score, including an unearned run scored by Gerald Laird.

Alvarez successfully made his first putout at first in the second, catching a throw from Josh Harrison. Alvarez's only moment of questionable defense came in the fifth when he was unable to extend for a Harrison throw that was slightly off line. The error went to Harrison.

“I don't want to start critiquing after one game,” Hurdle said of Alvarez.

The Pirates have been seeking to get Alvarez's bat back in the lineup, as he's become a liability at third base due to an MLB-high 24 throwing errors. But moving Alvarez to first base does not necessarily improve the Pirates' lineup. Ike Davis has a superior OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) for his career and this season against right-handed pitching.

Davis pinch hit for Worley in the sixth inning and ended the Pirates' last best threat by lining into a double play.

Walker tried to redeem himself for his error in the third when he smashed a Santana pitch out of the ballpark. Walker's 432-foot home run cleared the right-field stands and bounced into the Allegheny River for his 17th homer of the season. It was the 35th home run to reach the Allegheny River in the history of PNC Park. Walker became the 24th player to reach the river, though only two players have reached the river on the fly: Daryle Ward and Garrett Jones.

Walker is not pressing the panic button.

“I don't want to say something like this was bound to happen, but everyone is going to go through these tough stretches,” Walker said.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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