The Pirates hate it when people talk about reaching .500, but they have done nothing to dispel it for the better part of two decades, and that was true again with the 3-2 loss to the Houston Astros Friday night at PNC Park. It was the second time in the past week that Pittsburgh had a chance to be .500 at the latest point in any season since 2005, and it was the second time they fell flat.
In this one, the bullpen that had been among the most reliable in the majors blew it. Chris Resop and Jose Veras inherited a 2-1 lead on Neil Walker's solo home run in the seventh inning, but they combined to give up two runs on three hits and a walk.
Manager Clint Hurdle pointed to Resop's leadoff walk to speedy Michael Bourn as critical.
"It's a big play," Hurdle said. "That was the first complication of the inning, and they had three two-strike hits after that. And, offensively, we haven't answered as well as we've liked so far. We've just got to keep pushing forward, keep battling until we can have more consistency."
Wasted were seven strong innings by left-hander Paul Maholm, who allowed a run on five hits but now has been given a total of 12 runs of support in seven starts.
Hurdle could not make his stance much clearer on .500, a standard Pittsburgh has not achieved since 1992, Barry Bonds' last season with the Pirates.
"I can understand why .500 might have significance to some people," Hurdle said. "But I keep saying it: I'm not getting T-shirts printed up! I'm not going to do it! We're not trying to be a .500 team or to break the streak."
The Pirates' most recent contact with .500 at this point or later in a season came June 11, 2005, the night they beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 18-2, to improve to 30-30. The next afternoon, some fans came to PNC Park with homemade banners to commemorate the event.
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