Alex Gonzalez hit a two-run home run in the 13th inning after Tampa Bay blew a three-run lead for the fifth time in eight games, and the Devil Rays ended a seven-game losing streak by beating the Pirates 7-5 Sunday.
The Pirates were denied a fifth consecutive victory and missed a chance to move over .500 for the first time so late in a season since they were 67-66 on Aug. 26, 1997. They also couldn't sweep a skidding team they beat 7-2 and 18-2 the previous two nights.
"Absolutely," McClendon said when asked if it was the Pirates' worst loss all season. "I'm not happy. ... It was a very frustrating loss in a lot of different ways. And as far as we've come, these games show how far we've got to go."
Just don't ask Piniella about how far away the Devil Rays are from contending. Before the game, he sharply criticized ownership for not working to put a quality team on the field now and for focusing too far into the future.
Of course, there's not been much to see this season, with the Devil Rays going 21-42 overall and 5-28 on the road. They won for only the second time in 14 games and went 2-10 on a road trip that saw them lose four consecutive games from June 4-8 when they led by three runs or more.
This game had a similar look as the Pirates, down to their last out in the ninth, tied it on Humberto Cota's pinch-hit homer off Lance Carter. Pittsburgh then loaded the bases with one out in the 10th but reliever Franklin Nunez -- facing his first batter this season -- got Jose Castillo to hit into a double play.
"It would have been easy, once they tied the game in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and nobody on, to chuck it and get on a plane," Piniella said. "They hung in there and won a ballgame. It was a tough trip, but it ended up with a win."
The Pirates were disappointed a mostly good homestand -- they went 9-4 against the Marlins, Braves, Orioles and Devil Rays -- ended with so exasperating a loss.
"We were one hit away, one play away from winning the game," Daryle Ward said. "He (McClendon) wanted to sweep and we all wanted to sweep."
Pinch-hitter Nick Green walked to start the 13th against Brian Meadows (2-1), Pittsburgh's seventh pitcher, and Gonzalez followed a batter later with his fourth homer, a drive into the left-field seats.
"It was a fastball up, but I don't know how far up," a tired Gonzalez said. "I was almost delirious by then."
Nunez (1-0), called up from Triple-A Durham hours before, pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings for his first career victory. Chad Orvella pitched a scoreless 13th for his first career save, despite allowing Castillo's two-out double and walking Ward.
The Devil Rays led 3-0 in the first and 5-2 in the seventh, but considering their recent inability to close out games, the leads probably didn't feel very safe.
"It was a tough trip. We lost some games we shouldn't have lost and any time that happens to a team, it's that much harder to bounce back," Gonzalez said. "Usually, it takes a game like this to turn things around."
Travis Lee's two-run double got the Devil Rays off to a quick three-run start in the first as Pirates starter Josh Fogg allowed the first five batters to reach base. Carl Crawford walked and Julio Lugo and Alex Sanchez singled ahead of Jorge Cantu's RBI single and Lee's double.
Tampa Bay, 0-8 previously in interleague play, made it 5-2 in the seventh on Toby Hall's two-run single against reliever Salomon Torres. The Pirates, winners of 11 of their previous 16, tried to rally by scoring twice in the seventh on a double-play grounder and Matt Lawton's RBI single.
- Tampa Bay has lost four times this season when it was an out away from winning.
- Cota was 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter before hitting his third homer.
- Tampa Bay previously was 0-9 on Sundays.
- The Devil Rays had given up 50 runs in their previous four games and 71 in their last seven. They are 2-8 in June after going 20-6 last June.
- Jack Wilson was lifted an inning after being hit on the left forearm by Travis Harper's pitch.
- Tampa Bay starter Mark Hendrickson left with a hamstring cramp while warming up for the sixth. He gave up two runs in five innings after allowing 15 in eight innings in his two most recent starts.