Burres, Pirates fall on wild night in Cincy
Starter lasts only 3 2/3 innings, exiting in five-run fourth
CINCINNATI -- Pirates left-hander Brian Burres was excited about the latest developments. He thought, even if for just a split-second, that he could escape the inning with minimal damage done.
He loaded the bases in the fourth inning Monday night, but he forced Reds catcher Ryan Hanigan into a run-scoring double play, and though Cincinnati still had a runner at third base, right-hander Aaron Harang and his .176 batting average lumbered to the plate with two out.
Burres was so confident in the matchup that he tried a first-pitch curveball. It was a mistake, though, and eventually Harang made Burres pay, slapping an RBI single that accelerated Burres' departure during a five-run inning that led to the Reds' eventual 7-5 win at Great American Ball Park.
He saw Harang, and Burres thought he was probably in the clear. He was wrong.
"I was pretty excited," Burres said. "I had just got the double play. It's 2-2 and the pitcher was coming up with two outs. I tried to flip a curveball in for strike one. He's going to think I'm going to ambush him with a heater. Then I tried to throw a couple sinkers, and I missed with them."
By that point, Burres already had lost his feel for the baseball. He said he felt great physically, and he had good command early in the game, striking out the side in the second inning. But by the first pitch in the fourth inning, he knew he was in trouble.
"I just lost all feel, and I couldn't do much to get any outs," said Burres, whose record slipped to 2-2 and whose ERA rose to 5.40. "The first part [of the game], I felt OK. I lost all feeling later, and I was trying to do everything I could to throw a strike. You can't pitch like that."
He walked the first two batters of the fourth inning -- including a four-pitch pass to right fielder Jay Bruce -- and center fielder Drew Stubbs singled to load the bases with none out. Burres then forced the double play, but he fell behind 3-0 in the count to Harang. Two pitches later, Harang took Burres' four-seam fastball down the middle of the plate and deposited it into left field to score Bruce.
"He couldn't get ahead," Pirates manager John Russell said. "Too many walks. In a ballpark like this, you can't just give free passes. Nothing was really working for him. He just couldn't get the ball where he wanted it."
The Reds followed Harang's single with three straight hits -- including RBI doubles by shortstop Orlando Cabrera and first baseman Joey Votto -- and they sent nine batters to the plate. By that time, Burres had departed for the clubhouse.
Even more discouraging for Pittsburgh was what occurred in the second inning.
After making a nice stop of a hard grounder from Reds left fielder Jonny Gomes, third baseman Delwyn Young's throw caused Pearce to dive to the left side of the bag. He ran after the ball, but as he threw to second base, Pearce slipped and his spike got caught in the turf as his ankle rolled over. The diagnosis: a sprained right ankle.
Pearce tried to recreate the scene in the postgame clubhouse, using the walking boot on his right foot as a prop, but then he thought better of it and wisely continued the demonstration on the brown Johnston and Murphy shoe he wouldn't be using the rest of the night.
Pearce stayed in the game for the rest of the inning, but Russell pulled him from the game afterward.
"The adrenaline was going," said Pearce, who was on crutches after the game. "But as soon as the next pitch started, the inning couldn't end fast enough."
After he left the game, X-rays on his ankle revealed no broken bones. He'll undergo an MRI Tuesday morning. At this point, he's not sure how long he'll be out.
"I don't know; my ankle is pretty swollen," Pearce said. "I'll wait until tomorrow."
Yet, even though Burres suddenly lost control of his grip, Russell came away from the game encouraged, because after falling behind 7-2, his team followed with three runs in the seventh.
"We came back and scored the three runs and gave ourselves a chance," Russell said. "We had a chance in the ninth. That's all you can ask for when you get down big. You try to peck away. The guys got after it, and hopefully, it will carry over for us. In games past, we haven't been able to [fight back]. Hopefully, that's a good sign."
Young was one who gave his teammates some hope. Starting at third base for the first time in more than a month because Andy LaRoche remains out with a stiff back, Young -- who started just his 12th game of the season -- went 3-for-5 with three doubles to snap a 2-for-19 slide.
"It's still not his most comfortable place to be," Russell said. "But with Andy being out, we're trying to get a little more offense."
Josh Katzowitz is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.