Hurdle: Pirates' struggles start with pitching

Hurdle: Pirates' struggles start with pitching

CHICAGO -- Jameson Taillon couldn't stop the Pirates' losing streak this time.

Fresh off a dominant performance against the Mets in his second Major League start, Taillon saw the Cubs' ferocious lineup feast on his mistakes in a 10-5 loss at Wrigley Field that sealed a sweep for Pittsburgh's National League Central rival. The defeat was the Bucs' fifth straight, their 10th in 11 games and their 17th in 22 contests since May 28.

Taillon ended the Pirates' five-game losing streak last week with an eight-inning gem at Citi Field. Their current skid reached five on Sunday night, when the Cubs teed off for five homers against the Pirates' pitching staff.

Over their last 11 games, the Pirates have been outscored, 76-35. Their starters are 1-8 with a 7.81 ERA during that stretch. The only starter to win a game over that span? Taillon.

Pittsburgh's biggest problem also plagued Taillon on Sunday, pitching under the lights at Wrigley Field in a nationally televised game against the club with baseball's best record. He served up three homers, including back-to-back shots by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

"This is a professional team, good hitters, talented hitters," Taillon said. "They take care of your mistakes."

The Pirates have allowed 88 homers, fourth-most in the NL.

"It's location of pitches. We were fourth in the league in homers given up coming into yesterday's game, and it hasn't slowed down any," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's execution of pitches, is what it all comes down to. We do it well in sequences. The overall consistency hasn't been what we need. You need to be competitive and hold teams to three runs or less or four runs or less."

The Pirates' pitching was their key to success the previous three seasons. Last year, they posted the Majors' second-best ERA, eighth-best in 2014 and third-best in '13.

This year? The Pirates boarded a plane home Sunday night with a 4.45 staff ERA, ninth-highest in the Majors.

How can they snap out of this funk?

"We're getting ourselves underneath in games. We've got to find some answers off the mound," Hurdle said. "Collectively, they're going to roll up their sleeves and keep going to work. As far as shaking it up, we need to play a complete game. That would shake things up."

It starts on the mound. For proof, the Pirates only needed to look across the field this weekend.

Right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who struck out 12 on Sunday, has the rotation's highest ERA: 2.94. A season-high 27 games over .500 and 15 ahead of the Pirates, the Cubs have seen their rotation allow three earned runs or fewer in 22 straight starts.

The Pirates, meanwhile, have put together 33 quality starts -- at least six innings, no more than three earned runs -- in 69 games.

"The biggest thing that's going for them: When you can pitch it like them out of the starting rotation, everything spins off that," Hurdle said. "That's what they've done extremely well."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.