Pirates keep running into trouble

Pirates' manager Clint Hurdle

Clint Hurdle is unafraid to speak his mind and even less afraid to send his runners on the basepaths, but the Pirates' new manager has seen his aggressiveness cost him precious runs this season.

That was on glaring display Monday at Washington during the hideous fourth inning of the 4-2 loss to the Nationals.

Brandon Wood led off with a walk but, when Chris Snyder singled, Wood made the first out of the inning at third base. Ronny Cedeno doubled Snyder to third, but Paul Maholm, the pitcher who failed to execute a bunt in his first at-bat, was asked to do a safety squeeze.

Yes, with Snyder -- owner of zero career steals -- charging home from third.

Maholm failed to get a piece of the ball, Snyder was an easy out, and the Pirates somehow got nothing out of an inning that opened with a walk, a single and a double.

Small wonder that the Pirates have lost six in a row since poking their heads a game above .500 last week.

"We didn't have a good night," Hurdle said. "You know it's a gamble. We had players in scoring position, and we rolled the dice there. We've lost a few in a row, and I don't want to step off accelerator, go station to station and sit on our hands. We don't have a perfect team. I'd rather try to slow down a horse that's running hard than kick a mule that's not running at all."

The Pirates went 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

Wood's gaffe looked the worst of the two in that inning.

"Yeah, we all know you don't want to make the first out of the inning at third base," Hurdle said. "If that throw's even two feet off, he's in there. It's right at the base, and he's out."


--LHP Paul Maholm took another tough "L" in the 4-2 loss Monday in Washington, and it didn't take long from his exit to ensure that: The Pirates were up 2-1 when he left but down after the first pitch by RHP Jose Ascanio -- who returned last week after nearly two years lost to shoulder surgery -- resulted in a two-run home run.

--RF Matt Diaz, on a slight 6-for-17 uptick, was inserted at cleanup for the game Monday in Washington, partly because manager Clint Hurdle wanted to load up against Nationals LHP John Lannan. The offense has struggled miserably all season, so any move barely raises an eyebrow anymore.

--LF Jose Tabata is showing signs of climbing out of a long slump. His 2-for-5 output Monday marked the fourth game in a row in which he has twice reached base safely. Most encouraging is that he is hitting the ball to the opposite field again, following his natural stroke.

--2B Neil Walker went 0-for-4, but his 22 RBI rank third in the majors among players at his position, behind the Yankees' Robinson Cano and the Reds' Brandon Phillips, who have 25 each.

--The Pirates, owners of the No. 1 overall pick in the June 6 draft, are most interested in UCLA RHP Gerrit Cole and Rice 3B Anthony Rendon, but others are on the radar. "Somebody is going to make an impact out of this draft," GM Neal Huntington said. "We're just doing everything we can to make sure we get him."

BY THE NUMBERS: 2.14 -- Average runs of support for starter Paul Maholm, who fell to 1-6 Monday despite a 3.67 ERA.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Things aren't going our way. That's all. We're pitching well, getting runners on ... just need to go out there and keep doing the same thing." -- CF Andrew McCutchen, on the Pirates' season-high six-game losing streak.


--RHP Evan Meek (right shoulder tendinitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 27. He began a rehabilitation stint with Class AAA Indianapolis in mid-May and probably will need no more than two appearances before being activated by the Pirates. He is expected back in Pittsburgh by the end of the third week in May.

--RHP Mike Crotta (right elbow inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list May 11.

--RHP Ross Ohlendorf (strained right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list April 9. He threw off flat ground for the first time April 17. Ohlendorf threw from 120 feet April 26, and he threw two bullpen sessions in late April. He pitched his first live batting practice May 3 and threw another May 6. He had a setback though and isn't expected to rejoin the rotation until June at the earliest. He did resume throwing over the second weekend of May.

--RHP Kevin Hart (right shoulder surgery in May 2010) went on the 60-day disabled list March 18. He was throwing in Bradenton, Fla., in mid-April, but the timetable for his return was uncertain.

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