Pirates relinquish lead late, take loss
Ohlendorf's effort becomes no-decision against Braves
ATLANTA -- Call it an unlucky seven.
Seven times the Pirates have faced Derek Lowe.
They are now 0-7, as the Braves came from behind to beat the Pirates, 4-3, on Tuesday night at Turner Field.
This loss was particularly frustrating, coming on the heels of the 15-inning heartbreaker Monday night.
"We had some chances do some things, I thought we swung the bat pretty well," said Pirates manager John Russell. "We hit some balls hard at people. It was one of those games. We played a very solid game, but so did they -- and they got the big hit when they needed it."
Until the bottom of the seventh, it appeared that the biggest hit of the game was going to be catcher Robinzon Diaz's fourth-inning, two-out, two-run double that broke a 1-1 tie. The lead looked especially safe with the way Ross Ohlendorf was pitching.
"I feel like I threw probably was as well as I've thrown this year," said Ohlendorf, who endured his second successive no-decision, but a more favorable one than in his last start against the Mets, when he allowed five earned runs and nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. "It was sorely disappointing to get the loss. In giving up three runs, I feel like with the stuff I had, I could have given up less but they strung hits together well.
"[All my pitches] really were all working well but my fastball was the best it's been," he continued. "My last start was my worst one. I feel like this year I've been having a lot of trouble getting balanced. [Pitching Coach Joe Kerrigan] and I worked on a few things that really helped a lot. I felt like it was night and day how I threw the ball this start compared to last start."
He allowed eight hits, only one more than Lowe, while limiting the Braves to two runs in six innings. Unfortunately, the bullpen could not hold the lead, allowing Atlanta to rally for two runs in the seventh.
Pittsburgh entered the seventh ahead, 3-2, but, Ohlendorf -- now winless in his past four starts -- left following a lead-off single. Sean Burnett relieved and allowed a bunt single, a sacrifice and a walk to load the bases. Jesse Chavez relieved Burnett and was rudely greeted by a line-drive, two-run single to left by Yunel Escobar, on his first pitch. The hit put the Braves ahead to stay. The blown save was Chavez's second in as many opportunities.
Left fielder Nyjer Morgan and second baseman Delwyn Young each had two hits and scored a run for the Pirates, who have lost three straight and four of five on the current road trip. It was only the Bucs' fourth loss in 25 games when leading after six innings and gave them a 3-8 record in one-run games in 2009.
The win extended Atlanta's win streak to three and gave them a 4-3 mark on its current homestand. They are now 12-8 in one-run games and 26-5 when scoring four runs or more.
Making his first career start against Atlanta, Ohlendorf, who was unable to pitch five innings for the first time all season in his previous start, threw 84 pitches, 53 for strikes. He pitched with a sense of urgency, knowing the team was shorthanded after Monday night's 15-frame contest.
"I was hoping to pitch deeper in the game, because our bullpen had pitched so much last night," said Ohlendorf, who pitched six innings for the second time in his last five starts. "It didn't happen. With the way I was throwing the ball, I felt like I was going to be able to go at least seven, maybe longer, but I just gave up a few too many hits."
Lowe got the win, pitching his ninth quality start in his past 10 outings, allowing three runs and seven hits. He threw 102 pitches, 69 for strikes.
The Pirates reached the Braves' ace for a run in the first when Morgan singled, moved to third on a Young single and scored on an Adam LaRoche sacrifice fly.
After Atlanta tied the game on an infield hit in their half of the third, the Pirates increased the lead to 3-1 in the fourth when Young singled, Eric Hinske drew a two-out walk and Diaz drilled his two-out, two-run double to right-center, driving in his ninth and 10th runs of the season.
That would be the end of the scoring for the Pirates, as they would not get a hit after Morgan's sixth-inning single. Morgan stole second, but was stranded when Young grounded out to second.
The frustration was just beginning for the Bucs, however. The Braves rallied for a run in the sixth -- although some clutch pitching by Ohlendorf and a nifty 3-6-1 double play curtailed the rally. Atlanta took the lead in the seventh then benefited from a close call at first base in the eighth, when Young's smash ricocheted off third baseman Chipper Jones to shortstop Escobar, who then threw to first. First-base umpire Doug Eddings called Young out, then threw first-base coach Perry Hill out.
"It's frustrating -- it's a one-run game in the eighth," said Russell. "He basically said in so many words that he probably missed it. It's frustrating. You don't know what's going to happen. We may not have scored, but it is frustrating."
Despite the frustrating call and the back-to-back gut-wrenching losses, Morgan insisted that the Pirates are not down.
"It's tough but it's a part of the game," he said. "You have to go through those breaks and stuff like this. As a team we know we can play. We just have to keep going out there and putting the effort out there and the ball will bounce our way."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.