It was almost like a question from an old Algebra I textbook.
If a baseball team draws 10 walks and has six hits, is it possible it can be shut out in a nine-inning game?
The answer for the Pirates, in their biggest game of the season, was yes on Monday night.
They are nearing the brink of elimination in the National League Central race with a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a three-game series at PNC Park.
The Pirates (95-62) fell four games behind the first-place Cardinals (99-58) with just five to play.
The Pirates stranded a whopping 16 runners on base and were hitless in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
They left the bases loaded four times then saw their closer Mark Melancon, who leads the major leagues with 51 saves, give up three runs in a non-save situation in the ninth inning as the Cardinals broke a scoreless tie and all but wrapped up their third straight division title.
Losses are rarely more frustrating than this.
Furthermore, the Pirates seemed consigned to a third straight appearance in the winner-take-all NL wild card game next Wednesday night.
However, the Pirates remained surprisingly upbeat following the game.
“We’ve showered off tough losses before,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Third baseman Want the Full Story? Get "Inside Access"