Bucs find frustration in Philly
PHILADELPHIA -- The beauty of the Pirates playing against the Philadelphia Phillies is not the baseball. It's that one of these struggling National League teams must come away victorious.
The Pirates, who haven't won consecutive games since completing a sweep of the San Francisco Giants on June 11, had a chance to duplicate that modest feat Saturday. But a four-run first inning paved the way for a 6-2 Phillies win at Citizens Bank Park.
The failure shouldn't be surprising. Since sweeping the Giants, the Pirates have endured a 13-game losing streak, the worst in the franchise's modern era dating to 1900, and have, generally, alternated wins and losses since snapping the historic run of defeats. The Pirates haven't won a series since their stay in San Francisco.
Then again, these are not the 1927 Yankees re-incarnate that the Pirates were playing and losing to on this night. The Phillies last won a series June 5-7, taking three consecutive from Arizona. Since then, the Phillies have endured losing streaks of six and seven games and have fallen about a $50 cab ride behind the New York Mets in the NL East standings.
After the Phillies lost to the Pirates in the series opener Friday, manager Charlie Manuel had asked for help from the media in the form of prayer.
Either that, or perhaps, the unintentional batting practice thrown by Pirates starter Paul Maholm (3-8), who has lost four of his past five decisions, gave the Phillies a respite from their losing ways.
Maholm, the object of Jim Tracy's praise before the game, when the Pirates manager had said of his young left-hander, "He has a lot of upside, trust me," was touched early. The Phillies brought nine hitters to the plate in the first inning -- one that began with a Jimmy Rollins groundout and ended with pitcher Cory Lidle lifting a fly ball to the warning track in left. In between, six Phillies singles accounted for four runs.
Maholm believed his stuff was good.
"I was throwing the pitches exactly where I wanted to, and they were getting them in the holes or flaring them into the outfield," he said. "It's one of those nights you just, I guess, tip your hat and figure out exactly what happened. I think the hardest hit ball in the first was Lidle, and it was caught."
Chris Coste's two-run single in the third, which boosted the Phillies' lead to 6-1, was icing on that first-inning cake.
The Pirates, who had been among the NL's best run-producers over their previous nine games, averaging 6.1 runs a game during that span, went quietly.
Offensive highlights were few for the Pirates.
Ronny Paulino singled home Jose Castillo from second base in the second inning.
Jose Bautista stole a base in the fifth, the Pirates' first successful attempt since June 17. There had been only four attempts between that Jason Bay steal and Bautista's effort last night.
Bay hit a solo homer to center in the sixth -- his first since June 18.
The teams play again this afternoon. To the victor go the game and the series, a small uptick ahead of a three-day All-Star break.
"You always try to win series," Tracy said. "It's always meaningful. It doesn't matter if it's before the break,three weeks prior to it (or) three weeks after it."
Pirates (30-59) at Philadelphia Phillies (39-47)
1:35 p.m. · Citizens Bank Park
Probable starters : Pirates LHP Zach Duke (5-7, 5.01 ERA) vs. Phillies LHP Cole Hamels (1-4, 5.45 ERA)
TV/radio : FSN · KDKA-AM (1020) and the Pirates Radio Network