CINCINNATI -- The Pirates have played this poorly before, I’m sure. It’s just hard to remember exactly when.
There was 1952 when they went a franchise-worst 42-112, giving Joe Garagiola enough material to talk about on the "Game of the Week" for three decades. And there was 2009, when they lost 29 of their final 40 games on the way to a 62-99 finish. The following year, they were even worse at 57-105.
Call it recency bias, if you will, but nothing has seemed as bad as the current stretch. In the three aforementioned seasons, the Pirates did not go from contenders to laughingstock in about 3.4 seconds. Those teams were pretty much bad from start to finish.
Monday night, the Pirates’ losing streak reached nine games as they were beaten, 11-6, by the Reds in the opener of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park. While the final score looks somewhat respectable, it really was another embarrassment, as Alex McRae and Montana DuRapau were tagged for 10 runs in the second inning.
Since the All-Star break, the Pirates are 2-15, plunging from 2 1/2 games out of first place into the National League's second-worst record at 46-60.
Perhaps the most baffling part is they just keep saying the usual positive things afterward. They don’t even seem very affected by all the losing. There is no anger or emotion.
Perhaps that’s how it is for a franchise that hasn’t won a World Series since 1979 or a division title since 1992. Losing is accepted.
I won’t bore you with all the happy talk. It’s just repetitive and useless. Anyway, all the positivity everyone in the clubhouse could muster couldn’t mask the awfulness of the second inning.
McRae was called on to make his first major-league start after Jordan Lyles, who was scheduled to pitch, was traded to the Brewers about four hours before the first pitch. McRae pitched a scoreless first inning then was tagged for seven runs (five earned) while getting only one out in the second.
At least McRae did not fall back on the excuse of not having enough notice to properly prepare.
“I was ready,” he said. “It was just a matter of not executing pitches when I needed to.”
McRae was replaced by DuRapau, who was rushed in from Class AAA Indianapolis to take Lyles’ roster spot. He was charged with the last three runs of the second inning, an outburst capped by a grand slam by Jose Iglesias.
It was the first time the Pirates had given up double-digits runs in an inning since April 11, 2011, when the Diamondbacks put up a 13 spot in the fourth inning at Phoenix. Who would have thought the Pirates would actually miss Lyles after he was 0-6 with a 9.58 ERA in his final eight starts?
Yet it wasn’t just the pitching that hurt the Pirates. They also made silly mistakes on both defense and running the bases.
With one out and bases loaded in the second, Josh Bell fielded Josh Van Meter’s routine grounder to first base and tried to throw home for a force out. The throw wasn’t even close because it appeared Bell was taking part in a shot-put competition. Making matters worse, Clint Hurdle thought Bell had enough time to start what would have been an inning-ending 3-6-3 double play.
“Montana’s our best ground-ball option against right-handed hitters out of the bullpen,” Hurdle said. “That’s why he was in the game. (The error) caused some challenges.”
Despite the Pirates trailing 10-2 in the fifth inning, Jose Osuna ran through third base coach Joey Cora’s stop sign while attempting to score on Elias Diaz’s one-out double to center field. Osuna was thrown out easily.
“You can’t make an out at home plate there,” Hurdle said.
Whether the out really mattered is open for debate, though Colin Moran did allow the Pirates to cut the deficit to 11-6 with a grand slam in the sixth inning. In the end, Moran’s third career slam felt more like window dressing as the game was really over after the second inning.
“It’s hard right now, no doubt,” Hurdle said when I asked about his team's second-half difficulties. "We’ve battled adversity just about every night. We’ve been challenged all across the board. We’ve been challenged offensively, we’ve been challenged with our defense and we’ve been challenged with our pitching at times. It’s up to us to get it turned around.”
At the moment, the Pirates seem incapable of doing so.
• Clay Holmes (10-day IL, triceps)
• Steven Brault (10-day IL, shoulder)
• Gregory Polanco (10-day IL, shoulder)
• Francisco Cervelli (60-day IL, concussion)
• Jameson Taillon (60-day IL, elbow)
• Erik Gonzalez (60-day IL, hamstring)
• Rookie Davis (60-day IL, forearm)
• Lonnie Chisenhall (60-day IL, shame)
Joe Musgrove (7-9, 4.29) will pitch against Tanner Roark (6-6, 3.96) at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday in the middle game of the three-game series. Musgrove is 1-2 with a 5.17 ERA in his past three starts and Roark is 2-0 with a 4.68 ERA in his past six starts. I will be on the coverage.
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