Ya know, Pittsburgh just doesn't react well to hopping a plane and leaving the cozy confines of the North Shore. Maybe they get air sickness or jet lag or airline food poisoning or just plain homesick; who knows? We vote for piling into a van.
But there really can be no other excuse for a team to go 35-29 at PNC, a 55% winning record, and 18-45 on the road, a 28% success rate. After looking quite competent at home, the wheels fall off when they bat first.
Take tonight, for example. The offense was held to three runs, and never really mounted a threat against Yovani Gallardo, other than a two-out, two-run homer by Andy LaRoche. And they rolled over like puppies once again to the Brew Brew bullpen.
Kevin Hart's pitching line looks OK - he went six innings and gave up six hits while striking out four. But throw in a pair of walks, two beaned batters, and a wild pitch, and the damage came to five runs.
In the third, with two outs and a run in, he gave up a bloop single to Craig Counsell with two outs to put runners at first and second. Then he plunked Ryan Braun on an 0-2 pitch, starting more whining over that bruisin'. Up stepped Prince Fielder, who he walked on five pitches.
Now we understand you don't want to challenge the big guy in that circumstance. But that's why you bear down before he gets up in a position to hurt you.
Another run scored in the fifth, when Delwyn Young threw a ball away. It was followed by a ground ball single and run-scoring DP.
Then, after getting the first two outs in the sixth, three straight hits by the bottom of the order and a wild pitch brought two more runs home. Admittedly, one was a routine roller to Brian Bixler, who returned to form by throwing the ball too high to first. (He also struck out three times in three at-bats) But a pitcher, like a hockey goalie, has to be able to weather the storm.
We'll admit freely that Hart had some bad luck and worse fielding to contend with, but he hurt himself with his lack of command during the evening. Putting four guys on base with walks/hit batsmen and uncorking a wild pitch was his undoing, not dink singles and a leaky infield.
Phil Dumatrait and Steve Jackson each worked an inning; each gave up a run. No surprise there, home or away.
So that's the Pirate road experience; forget how to hit, field, and pitch. Hey, it's time to hire a voodoo guy as a coach. Maybe he can light some candles or dig up a corpse or something to turn the Pirate's gray uniformed zombies back to ballplayers.
-- Ronny Cedeno sat again. He pinch hit for Bixler in the ninth, and smacked a double. How bad can his finger be? He's 3-for-4 off the bench since his injury.
-- Luis Cruz probably got the day off at short because of the lump on his noggin caused when a Garrett Jones hit drilled him during batting practice yesterday.
-- Ryan Doumit moped his way into another day on the pine. He ain't talking, and neither are the suits, although they do allow that players have to let the past go and get with the program. Sure sounds like a subtle hint to us.