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Pirates' losing streak extended to 6 games

Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates pitching coach talks with pitcher Vance Worley and catcher Russell Martin during the Braves' 6-run first inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates pitching coach talks with pitcher Vance Worley and catcher Russell Martin during the Braves' 6-run first inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez retires the Braves' Justin Upton on a ground out during the fifth inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez retires the Braves' Justin Upton on a ground out during the fifth inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates pitcher Vance Worley watches a home run by the Braves' Jason Heyward during the first inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates pitcher Vance Worley watches a home run by the Braves' Jason Heyward during the first inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez applies a late tag on the Braves' Emilio Bonifacio during the seventh inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez applies a late tag on the Braves' Emilio Bonifacio during the seventh inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - The Braves'Emilio Bonifacio can't catch a double by the Pirates' Travis Snider during the seventh inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>The Braves'Emilio Bonifacio can't catch a double by the Pirates' Travis Snider during the seventh inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez avoids a collision with Braves pitcher Ervin Santana during the first inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez avoids a collision with Braves pitcher Ervin Santana during the first inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates center fielder Starling Marte watches his second home run of the game during the fourth inning against the Braves Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates center fielder Starling Marte watches his second home run of the game during the fourth inning against the Braves Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates fsecond baseman Neil Walker celebrates his solo home run with Russell Martin during the third inning against the Braves Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates fsecond baseman Neil Walker celebrates his solo home run with Russell Martin during the third inning against the Braves Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco makes his way to the outfield where the number 21 is placed in the grass to honor Roberto Clemente's 80th birthday Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a game against the Braves at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco makes his way to the outfield where the number 21 is placed in the grass to honor Roberto Clemente's 80th birthday Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, during a game against the Braves at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez plays first base for the first time in his career during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez plays first base for the first time in his career during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates pitcher Vance Worley is back in Philadelphia, where he made 26 major league starts. Worley was drafted by the Phillies in 2008.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates pitcher Vance Worley is back in Philadelphia, where he made 26 major league starts. Worley was drafted by the Phillies in 2008.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - The Pirates' Travis Snider is doubled off second base by Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons during the sixth inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>The Pirates' Travis Snider is doubled off second base by Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons during the sixth inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - The ball gets past Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez next to Braves pitcher Ervin Santana during the first inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>The ball gets past Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez next to Braves pitcher Ervin Santana during the first inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates pitcher Vance Worley watches a home run by the Braves' Andrelton Simmons during the first inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates pitcher Vance Worley watches a home run by the Braves' Andrelton Simmons during the first inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez fields a ground ball during the fourth inning against the Braves on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez fields a ground ball during the fourth inning against the Braves on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco breaks his bat on a ground out during the fourth inning against the Braves on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco breaks his bat on a ground out during the fourth inning against the Braves on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates third baseman Brent Morel strikes out with two runners in scoring position during the seventh inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates third baseman Brent Morel strikes out with two runners in scoring position during the seventh inning Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media - Pirates center fielder Starling Marte celebrates his first home run of the game with Brent Morel during the second inning against the Braves Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Trib Total Media</em></div>Pirates center fielder Starling Marte celebrates his first home run of the game with Brent Morel during the second inning against the Braves Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, at PNC Park.

Pirates/MLB Videos

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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