Jones' heroics go for naught in San Diego

Jones' heroics go for naught in San Diego

Jones' heroics go for naught in San Diego
SAN DIEGO -- If Tuesday night's 7-5 extra-inning loss to the Padres is any indication, this year's Pirates team isn't going down without a fight.

On a night when nothing went perfectly, Pittsburgh nearly salvaged a victory. The Pirates battled through adversity -- some of it self-inflicted -- to rally from two deficits, overcome some defensive lapses and, in the case of starter A.J. Burnett, gut out a tough 6 1/3 innings in what became the team's first loss in four extra-innings games this season.

First baseman Garrett Jones homered to bring the Bucs even on two occasions, most memorably with two-down in the bottom of the ninth. That blow sent Pittsburgh to its second set of extra innings in its past three games, first since the 19-inning win over the Cardinals on Sunday.

Tuesday's game required just one extra inning. Righty Daniel McCutchen, who had arrived in San Diego just hours before the game after being called up late Monday night from Triple-A, came on to start the 10th. McCutchen walked leadoff man Will Venable before surrendering a two-run, walk-off blast to Chase Headley.

"I hung a changeup and he hammered it," McCutchen said. "It wasn't what I wanted. We had fought back, and I wanted to come in and help."

The Pirates fell behind early, as Burnett yielded two runs on three hits in the first. While he didn't give up another run until the sixth, Burnett allowed 17 baserunners, five of them on walks, and battled into and out of trouble on numerous occasions.

"I didn't have one clean inning," Burnett said. "I don't know. Maybe I threw too many strikes. They hit some good pitches, hit some balls down the line when they needed to, but they found the right holes and they got on base. When you don't have a clean inning, it's tough."

Yet, Burnett battled, yielding four runs on 12 hits. He left with the game tied, 3-3, with one out in the seventh.

"Very gritty," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said when asked about Burnett's performance. "He didn't have a 1-2-3 inning, but they didn't beat the ball all over the ballpark either. He just had to pitch out of the stretch and make pitches. ... He gave us a chance to win."

"He made the pitches he needed to make, and it really helps you out, momentum-wise, when you see your pitcher do that," Pirates catcher Rod Barajas said. "This guy from Day 1 has been just such a great competitor and he rubs off on everybody."

One inning where Burnett had to make pitches was the sixth, which Pittsburgh entered with a 3-2 lead after a Barajas RBI double in the top of the inning.

The Padres put together three tough-luck hits -- a seeing-eye single to right, a bloop to left and a bunt single -- before a Jones error at first base allowed the tying run to score and gave San Diego a bases-loaded, no-outs situation with the heart of the order coming up.

But Burnett struck out Headley on a gutsy 3-2 breaking ball and then got Carlos Quentin to ground into a double play to end the threat.

The Pirates went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position to push their total in those situations this series to 3-for-21. But several runners were stranded when hard-hit balls found Padres gloves, a fact not lost on Hurdle.

"We've actually struck some balls hard lately, right at some people. I think the quality of at-bats has probably improved, we're just not getting the results," Hurdle said. "The one thing that's continued to get us are the first-inning runs we're giving up and 0-2 base hits -- those happened to us a couple times tonight."

The Bucs were, indeed, doomed by those two first-inning runs, which proved the difference in a game that saw four Pirates -- Jones, Barajas, Travis Snider and Clint Barmes -- record multiple hits. The loss was the 17th in the Pirates' last 20 games against San Diego.

But for those who see two losses to the fourth-place Padres as a reason to believe the clock may soon strike midnight this year's Pittsburgh squad, those in the Bucs' clubhouse believe Tuesday's loss is evidence of the opposite.

"It just shows you: We had a long game the other night but these guys don't quit, man," Burnett said. "They don't quit until the last out."

"You're playing for something, and you're trying to do something special," Barajas said. "We want to turn things around. We'd love to be that team that breaks the spell, and not the .500 number, either. We're talking about playing playoff baseball in October."

Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.