Well, the road warriors couldn't keep their new-found status going; Pittsburgh met its Waterloo at Sun Stadium last night as they were swept by Florida, losing their third straight to the Fish 9-5.
The starting pitcher again failed to last long enough to break a sweat. James McDonald threw three forgettable innings, giving up eight runs on six hits, three walks, a hit batter, and three K's, not to mention a pair of big blasts.
And again, like Paul Maholm and Charlie Morton before him, control and the bottom of the Florida order gave him fits.
A pair of walks and a single put him in a second-inning jam; Scott Cousins got him out of it when the seven hitter turned a heater down the middle into his first career homer to make it 4-0. The Marlins kept up the pressure by loading the bases again with one out, and got another tally when the Bucs couldn't turn an around the horn DP to go up 5-1.
In the third, it was more of the same. A walk and double after one away came across when Brett Hayes, the back-up catcher and eight hitter, homered. J-Mac got through the inning, but that was the ball game.
His velocity is as good as last year's, but he's been working on mechanic issues this season, primarily aimed to get the ball down in the zone. It hasn't kicked in yet. Missing the majority of camp didn't help the process; let's hope the light goes on before long.
At least Pedro found his swing in the Miami night, collecting three hits. His second inning homer broke a 23-inning Bucco scoreless streak, he scored in the fifth, and had an infield single to plate another run in the sixth. El Toro scored twice, too.
The Bucs put up three runs during the sixth frame and threatened to make a game of it, but the Marlins' Hanley Ramirez kept it in hand. With the bases loaded, one away and the scored tightened to 9-5, Matt Diaz shot a ball up the middle that was ticketed for center, but Ramirez made a diving snag and turned the hard-hit ball into a 6-4-3 inning ender.
Again, the Pirate bullpen was more than equal to the task. Mike Crotta gave up the only run via a Mike Stanton solo long ball while Daniel McCutchen, Jose Veras, Joe Beimel and Joel Hanrahan put up goose eggs.
How long that can continue is problematic; the Pirate starters threw just about twelve innings in the Marlin series, and no bullpen is built to eat that many innings; there were a pair of sub-five inning starts against the Reds, too.
Jeff Karstens takes the hill tonight against Washington's Livian Hernandez. In his last outing, he only lasted 4-1/3 innings, and he has a rep as a five-inning starter. It could be another busy night for the relief corps.
-- Josh Rodriguez collected his first MLB hit last night, an infield single.
-- The game is scheduled to be the last the Pirates play at Sun Life Stadium; the Marlins should have a new field up and running for 2012.
-- It doesn't appear anyone is biting on the Angel's DFA'ed SS Brandon Wood. The Pirates are thought to have put in a claim on him, and will find out at noon if he's a Bucco or not. Their claim is #1 on the list because the order is the reverse of 2010's finish until May, when the current 2011 record kicks in to determine the pecking order.