DETROIT -- Expected to be a formidable presence at the back end of the Pirates' bullpen, right-hander Brendan Donnelly has been stung by two particular problems lately: He's allowing too many balls to leave the park and he's falling behind in the count with regularity.
Donnelly served up Carlos Guillen's game-winning homer on Saturday just three pitches into his appearance. It was the second home run that Donnelly had allowed in three days (two appearances), and his fifth surrendered in 18 2/3 innings this season.
That rate certainly doesn't mesh with Donnelly's career numbers. The 38-year-old reliever has allowed more than five total home runs only twice in his previous eight seasons. And in both of those instances (nine homers allowed in 2005; eight in 2006), Donnelly had eclipsed the 60-inning mark.
So what has the particular issue been lately?
"I wish I could tell you that," said Donnelly, who has now been scored upon in five of his last seven appearances. "I don't know. Mechanically, we're working on something, but it's not that big of a deal. I'm not making the pitch. I'm not getting the strikeout when I need to. I'm not getting some luck when I need to. It's just a rough stretch. I've been there before, it's just a little more amplified here."
It hasn't helped either that Donnelly has had trouble getting ahead of hitters recently. He fell behind Guillen, 2-0, before Saturday's blast, and in his last seven appearances, Donnelly has thrown a first-pitch ball exactly as many times (16) as he's gotten ahead in the count, 0-1.
"That's one of the things that's been hurting him a little bit," manager John Russell said. "It's tough when you get behind, especially the innings he's going to pitch in."