September 18, 2014

Medina
Sunny
63°F

Indians the victim as Pirates end long skid

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Pirates hadn’t won for so long, they almost forgot how to celebrate.

Maybe that’s why their clubhouse stereo blared a little louder than usual, and there were unaccustomed smiles on their faces for not putting themselves in the club’s record book.

The Indians are used to losing.

Lastings Milledge drove in four runs, Andrew McCutchen scored four times and the Pirates avoided matching their longest single-season losing streak in 120 years, ending a 12-game slide by beating the Cleveland Indians 6-4 on Saturday night.

“That’s their job, to cause havoc on the bases,” Indians shortstop Jason Donald said. “And they got their job done.”

McCutchen reached five times with a triple, single and three walks. Pedro Alvarez drove in a key run with his first career hit, a double, as the Pirates opened a 5-1 lead in the fifth inning of the rain-delayed game.

Pittsburgh has had only one

13-game losing streak in a season since 1900, from June 15-28, 2006, and had to win to avoid a second. The Pirates also endured slides of 14 games (1954-55) and 13 games (1916-17) over multiple seasons, and a 23-game streak in 1890 that occurred 10 years before baseball’s modern era began.

“We didn’t want that,” said Jeff Karstens (2-2), who has stopped long losing streaks with both of his victories.

Milledge singled in a run off David Huff (2-9) in the first – beating the throw even though he slid into the bag – and tripled in two more in the third. Milledge and Alvarez had successive RBI doubles in the fifth after a McCutchen walk, with Alvarez’s opposite-field line drive down the left-field line making it 5-1.

Alvarez, the Pirates’ prized prospect, struck out six times while going hitless in his first 11 at-bats.

“I’m sure he’s feeling good about himself after getting that out of the way,” manager John Russell said.

His parents did. Father Pedro Sr. and mother Luz could be seen hugging and exchanging a kiss in the stands.

Huff struggled again, walking six and giving up six hits and five runs in five innings while losing his third consecutive start and eighth in nine decisions. He already has one more loss than he did while going 11-8 as a rookie last season.

Huff threw only 57 of 104 pitches for strikes, and manager Manny Acta said the club must weigh whether to keep him in the rotation.

“It’s simple. You can’t field a walk,” Huff said of his inability to throw strikes. “You’ve got to establish the fastball and if you can’t do that, you’re not going to win ballgames.”

Milledge missed a chance for the cycle – he hasn’t homered in 203 at-bats all season – when he walked leading off the seventh and struck out in the eighth after Garrett Jones singled in a run.

“Yeah, definitely,” Milledge said, acknowledging he was swinging for the fences the last time up. “I definitely altered my approach.”

As for all that offense, he said, “It was all McCutchen.”

Or maybe it was the full house. The Pirates are 4-0 at home this season when playing before crowds of 30,000-plus, and a 1960 World Series reunion attracted 38,008.

Pittsburgh – winning for the first time since June 5 – nearly gave the four-run lead back as Cleveland loaded the bases following Russell Branyan’s three-run homer in the sixth off Karstens. Evan Meek, the fourth Pittsburgh pitcher of the inning, struck out pinch hitter Travis Hafner to strand all three runners.

Pittsburgh’s five relievers combined for 3 2/3 scoreless innings, with Meek getting four outs and Octavio Dotel working the ninth for his 13th save in 16 opportunities.

Karstens got the victory despite the shaky sixth, giving up four runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings. He also pitched six innings to beat St. Louis 2-0 on May 5 and halt a seven-game slide.