The opposing pitcher -- Texas starter Kameron Loe -- had a 15.75 ERA in his previous two starts. The Rangers had dropped 15 of their last 20. And Pittsburgh had staff ace Tom Gorzelanny, the owner of the sixth-best ERA in the National League, on the mound.
The equation seemed flawless, right? Not quite.
Something didn't add up correctly on Thursday, as the Pirates dropped their series finale against the Rangers, 6-0, in front of 17,214 at PNC Park.
"We weren't able to do much of anything offensively," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said.
That's one way of putting it.
An offense that broke out for a combined 15 runs in the first two games of the series seemed baffled by Loe. Or maybe perplexed is the better word.
They struck out seven times -- which is now Loe's new career high -- and only managed to hit eight balls out of the infield all night long, only five of which were hits.
"A few guys on their team said he hadn't throw balls with that much sink all year," said Bucs left fielder Jason Bay, whose average has dropped 34 points since the beginning of the month. "He was getting a lot more sink on it, getting a lot more ground balls. You've got to tip your cap regardless of what his record or stats were coming into the game."
That record and those stats were anything but intimidating: a 7.40 ERA coming into Thursday night, nine runs allowed in his last start and only one start this season that has lasted seven innings for Loe.
But with the way the Pirates were talking about the 25-year-old right-hander afterward, they seemed convinced that Loe's past struggles were not a reflection of his ability -- at least not on this night.
"His ball-to-strike ratio tonight was very, very good," Tracy said of Loe, who had been demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma after his last start and brought back on Thursday only because Texas' scheduled starter had to be scratched because of a blister on his finger. "I find it hard to believe that every other game he pitched was similar to the one he pitched against us tonight."
The Pirates' best chance to put a dent in the scoreboard came in the fifth and sixth, though even then the threat was minimal.
In the fifth, Pittsburgh had two runners on with two out until Gorzelanny grounded out to end the inning. And the following inning, Chris Duffy was left stranded at second when Freddy Sanchez and Bay were unable to come through with a clutch RBI hit.
"He just kind of beat us into the ground which, when a sinkerball guy is on, that's what's going to happen," Bay said.
If anyone was supposed to dominate on the mound on Thursday it was Gorzelanny, who came into the game having allowed only 11 runs in his six home starts this year.
But his command wasn't there, and a Rangers team looking to break out took advantage of three pitches Gorzelanny left belt-high.
"Three unlucky pitches and stuff happens," said a reticent Gorzelanny afterward.
That "stuff" was three home runs, two solo shots and then a three-run homer from Gerald Laird that sucked the life out of the Pirates and gave the Rangers an imposing 5-0 lead.
Gorzelanny wasn't about to start trying to find any positives from his performance on Thursday. Instead, he was left churning with some mixture of frustration and anger that came out in his succinct response to questions about his performance.
"You give up three home runs, there's no battling in there," said Gorzelanny, who had allowed only four home runs in his first 13 starts this year. "You can't say you pitched good when you give up three home runs."
For Gorzelanny, the Rangers' five-run outburst continues a slightly concerning trend for the Pittsburgh left-hander this month. After allowing more than three runs only once in his first 11 starts, the left-hander has now done it in back-to-back appearances.
As for the Pirates, they squandered an opportunity to sweep the worst team in baseball. Taking two out of three may have erased some of the bitter taste from last weekend's frustrations in New York, but it won't suffice for a team that says it believes it is still well within striking distance of the first-place Brewers.
"Winning the first two, there might be a little bit of a 'good enough' feel sometimes," Bay said of his team's inability to complete the series sweep. "And not that that was the case, but if we are going to get better, we've got to have that killer instinct and not just think that two out of three is good enough. We're going to have to do better in that situation."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.