We don't know if it's more frustrating to be a Pirate or a Pirate fan these days. The losing has to wear on both, especially the way the Bucs lose.
Yesterday, they gave the Giants six, maybe seven outs in an inning and got run out of AT&T Park. Today, they had their chances, and again, just couldn't make a play or a pitch when they had the opportunity.
To start, they made emergency starter Alberto Arias, a September call-up, look like Tom Terrific. He struck out six the first time around the order, and had the Pirates rolling his sinkers on the ground all night. Houston got five unexpected shutout innings from him.
In the fourth, Pittsburgh threatened but any chance of a big inning was erased when Nyjer Morgan, aboard on a single, advanced from first to third on a pickoff gone wild. He took a turn, danced down the line and made a wild sprint home, challenging Lance Berkman to throw him out at home. He did, with nobody out. The Pirates left the bases loaded without scoring.
In the fifth, Ian Snell was tearing through the Astros. With two outs, pinch hitter Mark Saccamanno homered on the first pitch he saw, a not too bad heater that he went with and lifted out to the opposite field. It was the first MLB at bat for the Houston native and 2003 draftee out of Baylor.
The wheels fell off after that. A bunt hit was followed by three roped singles, all off of hangers, and suddenly it was 3-0. It's innings like this that make people wonder about Snell's mental make up, and rightly so. A bad memory is often the best friend a pitcher can have from batter to batter.
And he did have his stuff cooking tonight, striking out 9 in six innings, while giving up only one other hit. He mixed his change in to the lefties and threw first pitch strikes. But for a guy with a self-professed chip on his shoulder, he needs to quit pouting and start battling.
The Pirates answered with a pair of their own in the sixth, and went after LaTroy Hawkins hard in the eighth. Ryan Doumit lined a two-out single into right, and Adam LaRoche drilled a shot into deep center. It hopped over the wall, preventing Doumit from trotting home.
Brandon Moss came to the plate, and Cecil Cooper went to the mound to have Hawkins work carefully to him, with the RH Andy LaRoche on deck. Hawkins fed him a steady diet of curves, and Moss watched a full count breaker drop in for strike three. Even in Little League, the batter knows that you can't go down looking in that situation. But Moss did, and the Bucs went quietly 1-2-3 in the ninth.
It's becoming obvious that the Bucs are looking hard at Nyjer Morgan as an option next season. If Cutch starts 2009 at Indy, the cards seemed stacked in Morgan's favor to claim a roster spot.
Too bad he's not 23 instead of 28. His natural ability is formidable, but his baseball instincts are non-existent. Besides his base-running gaffe, he played a long fly into a double when he lost track of the wall. And for all his speed, he still can't bunt or slide, arts that most high school players have mastered.
At his age, he's never going to be a threat to be an everday MLB player, just a temporary bench piece until the suits decide to start McCutchen's service clock.
Oh well. Wonder who the Pirates will draft next year? Should be a top five pick.