After a 7-5 start, the Pittsburgh Pirates have dropped six in a row, losing to the Houston Astros 10-3 Sunday afternoon.
Carlos Lee and Pedro Feliz each drove in two runs and Lance Berkman hit his first home run of the season for the suddenly surging Astros who have won 8 of 10 games.
The Astros won by small ball and clutch hitting, stealing six bases through six innings on Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit.
Pirates starting pitcher Charlie Morton struggled once again, lasting just three innings. Morton gave up five runs on five hits and walked two. Morton threw just 48 strikes on 80 pitches and has allowed 28 hits and 24 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings. His ERA is now 16.20.
Sunday morning the Pirates optioned Daniel McCutchen to triple-A Indianapolis and the team placed Chris Jakubauskas on the 15-day DL to make room for pitchers Brian Burres and Brian Bass.
Burres and Bass each saw action and did not fare well as the Pirates pitching depth in their system is among the major league’s worst.
Bass gave up 3 runs in two innings of work, while Burres surrendered two runs in 1.2 innings pitched.
It was widely believed that Bass or Burres would start Tuesday night but with both seeing action on Sunday, questions remain on who the Pirates other two starters will be this week.
Ross Ohlendorf remains at least a week away from returning to action and the team appears done with the Daniel McCutchen experiment as the 5th starter.
Former No. 5 starter Jeff Karstens could get the call along with Kevin Hart.
There has been some rumblings that top pitching prospect Brad Lincoln could be recalled to fill a void but the Pirates opted against it.
Lincoln pitched Sunday afternoon for Triple-A Indianapolis, lasting 7 innings and giving up just 1 earned run on 5 hits and added 5 strikeouts in the Tribes 6-1 win.
A bright spot of late for the Pirates has been Andy LaRoche who 4-for-4 with 2 RBI’s in Sunday’s loss. LaRoche 4-for-4 day bumped his batting average up to .343 on the season.
Andrew McCutchen (3-for-5, .278), Ryan Doumit (2-for-3, .264) and Jeff Clement (2-for-4, .174) had multi-hit games for the Pirates, who despite having 14 hits in the game, continue to struggle to score runs.
The Pirates have been outscored 55-9 during their six-game losing streak and things don’t look up as the team begins a three game series in Milwaukee where they have lost 21 straight games.