I logged onto the Pirates website around 8:30 this evening to catch the score of their game against the San Diego Padres. It was the top of the 5th inning, and Pittsburgh was up, 7-1. There was a picture on the website of pitcher James McDonald in mid delivery, and the caption read something along the lines of: "Back to form."
Well, whatever good form McDonald was in lasted only a brief time, because he was gone after giving up six runs in the top of the 5th inning.
The Pirates briefly took the lead again in the bottom of the 6th, but they eventually fell, 9-8.
This loss really stings. The Padres came into the game on a bit of a roll, but they're still the lowly Padres, and when you're a contender, and you jump on a team like that, you need to put your foot on their throat and snuff the life out of them.
The Pirates didn't do that, and now they've fallen 3 1/2 games back of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central, with the Dodgers and Cardinals closing in and only 2 1/2 games back for the second wild card spot.
There is no way around it, there is something terribly wrong with McDonald. He's only had one serviceable outing since the All-Star break, sandwiched in between some pretty awful outings.
Clint Hurdle and Ray Searage both indicated McDonald's problems are more mechanical than physical. Well, if that's the case, they need to fix it soon. Otherwise, I can't see the Pirates remaining serious contenders with a starting staff made up of ace A.J. Burnett and four other question marks, and like it or not, that's what you have right now.
Tomorrow will mark the third straight time that Burnett will have to take the mound and stop a two-game losing streak. I know, at 14-3, Burnett is having a Cy Young-like year, but he's due for a bad start or two. What happens then?
It was about a year ago that the Padres came to PNC Park and shoveled dirt on what was left of the team's winning aspirations. After tonight's awful collapse, I fear that we could be repeating history.