Bucs close road schedule with loss
Skid reaches four as another Padres starter dominates
SAN DIEGO -- It's almost as if the Pirates sent their bats home early from their final road trip of the season.After posting five consecutive wins against the Mets and Dodgers, the Bucs have seen their offense suddenly go cold. They've scored six runs in the last four games, including a total of four runs in their three losses to the Padres. The Bucs extended their losing streak to four games on Sunday afternoon with a 2-1 loss to the Padres before a sellout crowd of 41,932 at PETCO Park. "We played good baseball here, but we weren't able to win a game," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "When you score four runs total in three games, it's going to be hard to beat somebody." As was the case on Saturday night, the Pirates got on the board early with a run in the first inning. Chris Duffy and Jack Wilson began the game with back-to-back singles off of Padres starter Clay Hensley. Duffy scored later in the inning on Ryan Doumit's two-out single. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the first-inning mini-rally would be the sum of its offensive production. Hensley (11-11), who had 109 strikeouts in 175 innings coming into the game, was nearly as dominant on Sunday as fellow Padres starters Chris Young and Jake Peavy had been during the previous two games of the series. Hensley set a career high with nine strikeouts while limiting the Bucs to one run on seven hits in six innings. "Their pitchers were executing the whole series. They shut us down," said Jose Bautista. "They didn't allow us to get consecutive baserunners or hits with runners on base." "We didn't swing the bats well all series," Xavier Nady added. "When you've been playing well, and you come in with some confidence, that's tough." The biggest problem for the Pirates during the series was their inability to put the ball in play. Bucs hitters struck out 31 times in three games, including 12 times each on Saturday and Sunday. "[The Padres] have one of the best pitching staffs in the National League," said Wilson. "It was a good test. We didn't pass it." Hensley's fine outing was followed by two shutout innings of relief from Cla Meredith. That set the stage for Padres closer Trevor Hoffman to etch his name into the baseball history books. Hoffman, who tied Lee Smith's career saves mark the night before, retired the side in order in the ninth inning for his record-breaking 479th save. He was mobbed on the field by teammates after pinch-hitter Freddy Sanchez grounded out to shortstop to end the game. "I've never seen a crowd get into one inning for one guy like that before," said John Grabow. "You get goose bumps even if you are on the other team." Several Pirates players watched from their dugout as the Padres paid tribute to the veteran closer after the game. "I tip my hat to this guy to be able to do what he has done for 14 years," said Salomon Torres. "He's a role model for all the closers that want to be like him. "He leaves a good legacy, and he's not done yet. He's still going to put up good numbers. When everything is said and done, the Hall of Fame voters are going to have to do something about it. "In my book, this guy is a certain Hall of Famer." The Pirates lack of offensive production wasted a solid outing by fill-in starter Marty McLeary. McLeary, who was making his first big-league starts after 10 seasons in the Minor Leagues, allowed one run on four hits and two walks in five innings in his first appearance since Sept. 5. "Marty McLeary threw great today," said Tracy. "To pitch the five innings that he did, 70-some-odd pitches when he's had a couple of relief appearances during the course of this month, I'd say that's an admirable job." McLeary got out of a base-loaded, no-out jam in the second inning before the Padres finally got to him in the fourth on a solo home run by Russell Branyan. The 453-foot blast matched the longest home run ever hit at PETCO Park. "I wish I had that one back," said McLeary. "I tried to come in and just kind of left it over the middle. When you do that, big-league hitters are going to hit it a long way, and he did." Overall, McLeary was satisfied with his effort. "I thought I threw the ball pretty well," said McLeary. "I was erratic in the second inning, but I was able to get out of it. "My goal was to keep them in the game and give us an opportunity to win." Josh Bard put San Diego ahead for good with a solo home run in the sixth inning against Pittsburgh reliever Juan Perez (0-1). The Pirates will finish the season with a 24-57 road record.
Ed Eagle is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.