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Perrotto: Ugly night for Pirates on day some call the “unofficial first day of the pennant race”
By John Perrotto
Jim Leyland, back in the days when the Pirates were contenders and he was their manager, used to say the pennant race didn’t start until Aug. 15.
Wednesday happened to be Aug. 15 and if it was truly the start of the pennant race then it got off to an ugly start for the Pirates.
It started with veteran right-hander A.J. Burnett calling a players-only meeting more than three hours before the game. Burnett thought the Pirates had looked rattled throughout their season-long 11-game homestand that ends this afternoon when they host the Los Angeles Dodgers at PNC Park. He believed getting everyone together to talk things out would help morale and ease minds.
One other thing Leyland used to say was that a team having meetings is a team having problems. Make no mistake, the Pirates are having problems and they continued Wednesday night as the Dodgers rolled to a 9-3 victory.
Second baseman Neil Walker was lost in the first inning to a dislocated right pinkie when he was slid into by the Dodgers’ Mark Ellis while unsuccessfully turning a double play. Walker, who is having a breakout season, believes he will only be out a few days but no one will know for sure until he is examined by a hand specialist this morning.
Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez had his worst outing of the four starts he has made since being acquired from the Houston Astros in a July 24 trade. Rodriguez was tagged for five runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings and is now 0-3 with a 5.47 ERA as a Pirate.
It is hard to call a trade a success or failure after less than a month. However, Rodriguez has certainly hurt the Pirates more than he has helped and it isn’t unreasonable to wonder if left-hander Rudy Owens, one of three prospects traded to Houston, could have done better if promoted from Class AAA Indianapolis — and for a lot less money.
One thing that is certain is the Pirates fell further out of the National League Central race while dropping to 3-7 on the homestand. They now trail Cincinnati by seven games and have also been caught for both second place in the division and for the second wild card spot by the St. Louis Cardinals.
As the Pirates were going down quietly in the seventh inning, a pocket of fans in the crowd of 26,522 began chanting “Here we go Steelers, here we go.”
It might have been the unofficial first day of the pennant race but it had an eerie feeling of being the last day of relevance for the 2012 Pirates.