PHOENIX -- These last two starts -- one at Chase Field on Wednesday, the other coming up next week -- represented an opportunity for Ross Ohlendorf to further convince the Pirates that he belongs in Pittsburgh beyond this year.His case was already plenty porous. And Wednesday's outing only further poked holes in whatever argument Ohlendorf might have had left. Coming off his only good start of 2011, Ohlendorf was chased before retiring an out in the third inning of Pittsburgh's 8-5 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. "I was feeling really good after the last game," said Ohlendorf, who allowed two runs in seven innings on Thursday. "I was thinking things were going to go a lot better." They didn't. Whatever steps Ohlendorf might have taken forward in that win against the Dodgers, he took nearly as many in the other direction on Wednesday. Five of the first six batters that Ohlendorf faced reached. He fell behind seven of the eight hitters that came up in that first inning. It was all a harbinger for the trouble to come. After allowing three first-inning runs -- two scored on a homer by catcher Miguel Montero -- Ohlendorf pitched a mostly clean second. Then it unraveled in the third. Three straight singles drove home another Arizona run. Lyle Overbay followed with a walk, and Ohlendorf's day was done. Rookie reliever Jared Hughes inherited the bases-loaded, no-outs jam and allowed all three runners to score. That left Ohlendorf charged with seven runs on seven hits. "We were behind in the count, we were up in the zone and we really didn't have a breaking ball," manager Clint Hurdle said of Ohlendorf. "It was challenging. There just weren't a lot of usable weapons out there today." Two of Ohlendorf's last three starts have ended after six outs. In Ohlendorf's six outings since returning from Triple-A, he has allowed 24 earned runs and 42 hits in 25 innings. He has walked more (19) than he has struck out (18), and has pitched past the fifth just once. Because of the length of time Ohlendorf missed due to a shoulder injury this year, the Pirates have little choice but to weigh this small sample of results heavily as the organization begins to look toward 2012. Ohlendorf is set to be arbitration eligible for the second time, and it is appearing more and more unlikely that he will be tendered a contract. The tenuousness of his situation is not lost on Ohlendorf, who won an arbitration case against the Pirates last offseason. "I figured that [these starts] would matter," he said. "It's pretty obvious. I haven't pitched well this year." Ohlendorf is making $2 million this season, meaning that the Pirates tendering him a contract would ensure a salary of at least $1.6 million next year. His results have not matched such worth. The Pirates have stated that the evaluation process is ongoing and that no decision about Ohlendorf's future has already been made. "We need to see how the rest of the season plays out," general manager Neal Huntington said before Ohlendorf's start. "A lot of it will be dependent upon how he does in his last two starts this season." Ohlendorf's troublesome day left the Pirates trailing, 8-1, by the end of the third. The D-backs scored five times in that third inning, getting the final run off Hughes, who had not allowed a run in his first eight Major League appearances. The Pirates chipped away at Arizona's lead from there, but the deficit proved too large to erase. Pittsburgh scored twice off Arizona starter Wade Miley, who tossed the first five innings. Ryan Ludwick drilled a solo homer. In the fourth, Derrek Lee drove home Andrew McCutchen with a single. Lee homered off reliever Micah Owings in his next at-bat and finished with a three-hit game. Josh Harrison doubled and scored in the seventh. Pittsburgh used a two-out RBI double from Jason Jaramillo to score again in the eighth. Ryan Doumit came up as the potential tying run but grounded out to end the frame. The Pirates used 15 position players and six pitchers in the comeback attempt. "They came at us with everything they had," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "We were ahead and they just kept pushing back." The loss kept the Pirates from earning their first series win in Arizona since 2005. Pittsburgh finished 3-3 against the D-backs this year. As for Ohlendorf, his final start of the year will come in Milwaukee on Tuesday. It could also turn out to be the final outing he makes in a Pirates uniform. "He'll get the ball one more time and see where he takes it," Hurdle said. "It's on him. He knows that."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.