It's all coming apart for the Pirates, who were baseball's darlings just a couple of weeks ago and now are mired in an eight-game losing streak that has looked little different than much of anything else from the last 18 years.
Now, even their best are faltering.
Jeff Karstens, who had limited opponents to two or fewer runs in 13 of his previous 16 starts, was rocked for nine runs in 3 1/3 innings Friday night in the 15-5 loss to the Padres. That was the worst loss of Karstens' career, and it extended Pittsburgh's worst losing streak of the summer and dropped the Pirates' record to 54-57.
Hard to imagine this team was 53-47 and in first place on July 25.
"Everything's been talked about," manager Clint Hurdle said of what the team might do, including personnel changes. "It's been challenging, no doubt."
Making matters more painful, a key piece of the franchise's future was front and center in this loss: Pedro Alvarez grounded into 4-6-3 double plays in his first three at-bats, then struck out and grounded out. The sellout crowd of 37,766 booed the 24-year-old, who is batting .206. He also committed his 12th error on a routine bouncer.
"We need to step up. We know it. We need action," Hurdle said. "This is the hard part of a season, and you've got to challenge yourself. If this game wasn't hard, it wouldn't be special. We'll evaluate the things that went on tonight, and we'll have a clean slate the next day. We're going to stick to it, fight through it."
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