Pirates find silver lining in loss

Pirates' five-game win streak ends

LOS ANGELES -- The Pirates continued to play hard, but were unable to capitalize on opportunities on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium. Pittsburgh's five-game winning streak came to an end after it dropped the finale, 5-2, to Los Angeles before 48,567 fans.

While the loss is disappointing, manager Jim Tracy was anything but disappointed.

"We had a great series and played a great game," Tracy said, explaining that the loss simply came down to "what we didn't do offensively with opportunities that we had."

On the other hand, there was much to feel positive about, most notably the pitching of rookie Shane Youman (0-2) and the way he handled himself in only his second big-league start.

When Rafael Furcal led off the game with a single and then came around to score two batters later on Olmedo Saenz's long home run over the left-field wall, it wouldn't have been unexpected for a rookie to let the game get away. Instead, Youman shook it off and didn't give up another hit until the fifth inning. In fact, the Dodgers only had three hits after seven innings.

"He is not afraid to compete," is the way Tracy described his pitcher.

The manager admits he's intrigued by what he's seen so far from Youman.

"He has a very smooth and easy delivery, and he's not afraid to pitch inside," Tracy said. "He is not afraid to throw the ball in the strike zone."

"I want to do the things that got me here, like stay aggressive and make those guys swing the bat," said Youman, who then admitted that he got away from that a bit.

"Tonight was probably a night that I wasn't as aggressive as I should have been, trying to nitpick a little and make too good of a pitch."

Being aggressive and throwing strikes was something that Tracy wishes the aptly named Josh Sharpless had more of on the mound.

In the bottom of the fifth, with one out and a tied game, Youman walked Furcal and then gave up a single to Kenny Lofton to put runners on the corners.

"[Youman] hadn't started a game since Cincinnati and had already thrown 88 pitches," Tracy said, "so I wasn't going to let him face Saenz again."

Instead that was up to Sharpless, who promptly threw a wild pitching letting Lofton advance to second. Saenz then helped Sharpless out, striking out at a pitch way off the plate.

Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew weren't as helpful, as Sharpless walked Kent on five pitches to load the bases, and then gave a free pass to Drew on four pitches to push the eventual winning run across the plate.

"I thought that Kent was the batter I'd have a better chance at," Sharpless said, "but I tried to be too fine, rather than go at him.

"Then I tried to be even finer with Drew, and you can't pitch like that."

Sharpless finally got out of the inning when Russell Martin Jr. was called out on a checked swing.

In his brief appearance, Sharpless threw 13 balls and seven strikes, with two of those strikes being gift swings from the hitters.

After that, the Pirates continued to put men on, but couldn't move them around. When the Dodgers added two insurance runs in the eighth inning on consecutive singles by Kent, Drew and Martin, plus a suicide squeeze bunt by Marlon Anderson, the game was effectively out of reach.

Overall though, the game and the series was a positive experience, and Tracy was pleased with his young pitcher.

"Shane did a great job. He kept the Dodgers at bay for a long time," Tracy said. "We just didn't help him."

In fact, some of the most productive hitting came from Youman himself. He went 2-for-3 and drove in the tying run in the fifth, singling after Jose Bautista led off with a double.

When asked about his hitting, which finds him now at 3-for-5 in his brief Major League career, Youman was a bit stunned.

"I didn't have a hit all season in the Minors, so I'm kind of surprised by it," Youman said.

The other hitter of course was Freddy Sanchez, who had another two hits to increase his average to .347, nine points ahead of Miguel Cabrera, who sat out Thursday's Marlins' game in New York.

Disappointed in losing, yes, but there is no disappointment in the way the Pirates are finishing up their season.

"It's going to be another great learning experience this weekend in San Diego," said Tracy.

Glenn Rabney is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.