Bucs' skid goes on as Gorz goes down
Pirates drop fifth straight, lose southpaw to left finger injury
HOUSTON -- Players keep dropping and the losses keep piling on for a Pirates team looking to get on some sort of winning roll before this season is officially in the books.
In this latest chapter, credit Houston's Miguel Tejada as the villain in preventing the Pirates from successfully halting a frustrating four-game losing streak. Tejada's grand slam in the sixth capped a five-run inning that saw a tie game vanish, and eventually end, in a 7-4 loss to the Astros in front of 26,859 at Minute Maid Park on Wednesday.
Not only are the losses accumulating at a frantic pace -- the team has dropped 16 of its last 19 -- but injuries continue to add salt to an already open wound.
On Monday, it was Jack Wilson who learned that his already injury-plagued season would not include another start at short this year because of a fractured finger.
Day two in Houston saw second baseman Freddy Sanchez leave the game after one inning with blurriness in his right eye. Though not a serious ailment, it was enough to keep Sanchez off the field on Wednesday and likely on Thursday as well.
Then on Wednesday, it was Tom Gorzelanny who had his start cut short by irritation in his left middle finger.
And in the meantime, the Pirates are still without a win in this four-game series against the Astros.
Concerning this latest injury, Gorzelanny will not know whether his season ended with a pitch to Lance Berkman in the third until the team returns to Pittsburgh on Friday and he sees a specialist.
"I threw a pitch and I just kind of felt a pop in my finger," Gorzelanny said. "It felt kind of funny. It swelled up a little bit. It's really sore."
While the severity and the cause of the injury are unknown, it could stem from a slight ailment that Gorzelanny took into the game. The left-hander admitted to jamming the same finger a few days back -- how he did so, he doesn't know -- which could have contributed to the sudden pop he felt.
The finger had been somewhat bothersome during the 2 1/3 innings that he completed, but didn't become unbearable until the pitch to Berkman.
"It was bothering me a little bit during the game, but I was able to grip the ball and throw what I wanted," said Gorzelanny, who left trailing, 2-0, because of a two-run homer he served up to outfielder Hunter Pence in the second. "But after that pitch it was a whole different feeling."
Manager John Russell said that he doesn't expect X-rays taken on Friday to reveal a break in the finger, but didn't rule out a ligament tear or something similar. Gorzelanny is hopeful the news isn't that bad.
"I'll just have to cross my finger," he said.
While Gorzelanny tried to add a bit of humor to his situation, there was little else to be found by the time the game played out with the lefty off the mound.
A 418-foot blast by first baseman Adam LaRoche finally got the Pirates on the scoreboard in the fourth, before Nyjer Morgan's two-out RBI double tied the game an inning later.
In the meantime, reliever T.J. Beam continued to impress out of the bullpen, this time throwing 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. Beam has now been scored upon in just two of his past 10 outings.
But a feisty Astros team determined to make this National League Wild Card race interesting finally found its next victim when Denny Bautista took the mound. Getting the final out of the fifth wasn't a problem for the oft-erratic right-hander, but the following inning wouldn't be as smooth.
Former Pirates player Jose Castillo started the inning with a line-drive single, which was followed up by Reggie Abercrombie's double into the left-center-field gap. Bautista responded by getting a short fly out. Then his control all but disappeared.
A five-pitch walk to pinch-hitter David Newhan followed to load the bases. A sacrifice fly drove in the go-ahead run and then a four-pitch walk loaded the bases back up.
"Again, we aren't hitting our spots when we need to," Russell said. "We've been having trouble with guys on base, and against a good hitting team, it's going to bite you."
Russell stuck with Bautista to face Tejada, who entered the at-bat with an 11-game hitting streak.
"It's still a good matchup if [Bautista] throws the ball like he's capable of," Russell said of his reasoning.
But Bautista once again fell behind in the count against Tejada, brought it back to 2-2 and then finally found the plate. The problem was, he found all of it.
"It was a curveball, but I just threw it right down the center," said Bautista. "I tried to make a pitch but it was right there."
Tejada took that pitch and launched it off the arched facade in left field. It was the 11th grand slam of his career.
The disastrous five-run, 1 1/3-inning outing is added to some already concerning numbers for Bautista lately. In nine appearances, dating back to Aug. 22, Bautista has allowed 16 runs in 10 1/3 innings.
There was little explanation from Bautista for the wildness beyond just the fact that he never found his rhythm. He isn't feeling late-season fatigue, he insisted. And the shoulder that was bothering him earlier this season is holding up just fine.
"I still feel very good," he said. "I've just got to go back to what I was doing at the beginning."
Houston's 7-2 lead would never be seriously threatened. RBI doubles by Nate McLouth and LaRoche in the eighth tacked two more runs on for Pittsburgh, but any hope of continuing the inning was stalled when Brandon Moss struck out looking to end the frame.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.