Alternate title: “Good hitters gonna hit” — James McDonald, 4/15/2013

Photo Credit: David Hague
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle did not want to speculate about a possible injury bothering James McDonald after Pittsburgh’s 10-6 loss to the Cardinals. Photo Credit: David Hague

Today’s Pirates Pregame asked the question: Which James McDonald would we see today? It did not take long to get the answer.

McDonald was hit early, hit hard and hit often before being pulled after retiring just five St. Louis Cardinals. In that time, the Cardinals scored eight runs (thought it’s worth noting that only three of them were earned, after a throwing error by Clint Barmes with two outs kept the second inning alive) on eight hits and used that early production to run and hide from the Pirates the rest of the night. When it was all said and done, St. Louis got out of PNC Park with a 10-6 win in the first of a three-game weekday series.

It was easy to tell something was not quite right with McDonald. His velocity was down and his pitches were in bad spots — usually resulting in a line drive to a gap or a hard-hit ball through the infield.

“I left the ball up, got behind guys,” McDonald said. “Good hitters gonna hit. I didn’t keep my team in the game today and that’s what happens when you make bad pitches — you get hit hard.”

McDonald refused to answer questions about his health after the game, but did offer some insight to how he will deal with Monday’s result.

“Just go to sleep and wake up,” he said. “Go to the ball park like any other day.”

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he had not talked to McDonald about Monday’s results or his health other than a brief chat.

“There wasn’t anything real crisp but the execution, the lack of it, he just couldn’t get the ball where he wanted to get it,” Hurdle said. “It was hard out there for him. Too many pitches up and over the plate to a good hitting team.”

As for any possible injury?

“I don’t want to speculate right now. I haven’t had any conversations with him. I need to sit down and really talk to the guy,” Hurdle said. “I haven’t seen anything glaring but we saw what you saw as far as velocity, finish, the command. There was some challenges out there, a number of them, tonight.”

McDonald’s outing continued the trend of the Pirates’ starting rotation putting a heavy burden on the bullpen. Pittsburgh starters have averaged fewer than five innings per start, second-lowest in the National League, ahead of only the San Diego Padres. Hurdle said it was something the starters are aware of and have to fix going forward.

“The starters do understand that they need to make this thing work,” Hurdle said. “At the end of the day, they had to bring their closer in and we had the tying run on deck after being down 10-1. I like the way we’re playing. The hiccups we’ve had off the mound have been challenging, but we’ve been able to handle them so far.”

With the sudden lack of depth in Pittsburgh starting rotation, an injury or time missed by McDonald might change the way the team has been playing.

“We’ve got to find out where James is at and what’s going on and move on from there,” Hurdle said.

**

Another item mentioned in the Pirates Pregame was the possibility of seeing Russell Martin move to third base with Michael McKenry coming off the bench to catch. In the sixth inning, sure enough, McKenry put on the gear and got behind the plate and Martin took Pedro Alvarez’s place at third.

“Double switch,” Hurdle said. “We only had a couple of pitchers left.”

**

St. Louis will start Jake Westbrook (1-1, 0.00 ERA) today and will face Jonathan Sanchez (0-2, 12.96 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

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