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Bucs' offensive woes continue

Pirates/MLB Videos

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Pirates haven't exactly been an offensive machine this season, but what little production they were getting early on has vanished.

Trailing by four runs, the Pirates took a streak of 22 consecutive scoreless innings into the bottom of the ninth on Thursday against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park. They finally crossed home plate when Andrew McCutchen scored on a wild pitch, but it didn't matter, as the Pirates dropped a 4-1 decision, their fourth consecutive and fifth in the last six games.

"We're not hitting, that's about it," McCutchen said. "There's really no explanation for it, we're just not getting it done."

Left-hander Paul Maholm gave up two runs in the first inning, then shut the Brewers (7-5) down for the next six. But the Pirates (5-7) struck out a season-high 14 times and managed just four hits, bringing to eight their number of hits in the rain-shortened two-game series against the Brewers.

"The number of strikeouts continues to be alarming, the inability to get leadoff hitters on. ... We need to get everybody involved to some degree," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We haven't been able to connect the dots from the top to the bottom of the lineup."

The Pirates already had struck out 91 times this season entering the game, tied for fourth-most in the majors. Of the 14 last night, 10 were fanned by left-hander Randy Wolf, the pitcher of record in the Brewers' 20-0 win at PNC Park almost a year ago.

Coming off a 6-0 shutout Wednesday, Hurdle made some lineup changes going into the game.

Third baseman Pedro Alvarez was given the night off, with Steve Pearce making his first career start in his stead. Matt Diaz, a career .438 batter (7 for 16) against Wolf, batted cleanup, followed by Pearce. Lyle Overbay, who had batted fourth in every game but was looking for his first hit against a left-hander this year, was in the sixth spot.

Overbay got a hit in the fifth inning, but it was just the Pirates' second on the night.

By the time they got to the ninth, they had managed just one more, and then when they did start to mount a comeback, the situation was far from ideal.

A leadoff walk to McCutchen, a single by Steve Pearce and a walk to Ryan Doumit loaded the bases with two outs. Up came rookie Josh Rodriguez.

The Pirates had Garrett Jones available, but Rodriguez already had replaced Ronny Cedeno. Had the game gone on, the Pirates would have had no one to play shortstop. So Hurdle stuck with the kid still looking for his first major league hit. Rodriguez struck out to end the game.

"Unless Jones could figure out a way to play shortstop, no," Hurdle said of hitting Jones instead. "Josh, once he's in the game, he's got to hit. We just hoped we could find a way to get on base and get Jones up there."




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