So it was for the Pirates on Tuesday night, when Ian Snell's best efforts couldn't come close to containing the Mets. For Pittsburgh, the 8-4 defeat was its ninth defeat in 10 games. For Snell, it was his third straight loss, and it may have signaled the loss of something else: his sanity.
"I'm starting to break," Snell said. "I'm getting stressed out, and I don't know about these other guys, but I just want to win. I don't want to be called a loser. Even my family calls our team losers, and I don't want them to say that about our team."
The standings, instead, are now doing the talking, as the Pirates dropped a season-high 16 games under .500, not three weeks after climbing to within eight games of even. And Snell, as much as anyone, has been the culprit, winless with a 9.00 ERA in three starts since the All-Star break.
"All I can say now is I'm going to take the blame for everything," Snell said. "Everything's my fault. I don't want to put no pressure on the team, nothing. There were some balls I thought we could have caught and could have made a play on. I could have only given up three runs and stayed in the game -- I threw 50 pitches and I'm out of the game. But they didn't give them [his teammates] errors, either, so it didn't work out in my favor."
Snell through 63 pitches, in truth, though it's no surprise if he'd like to forget the last few dozen. They came in a four-run fourth that knocked the young right-hander out of the game, and featured two of those borderline plays to which Snell alluded.
The first came with one out on the inning, when Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca sent a towering fly into the gap in left-center. The ball hung up for several seconds while left fielder Jason Bay and center fielder Xavier Nady -- a right fielder by trade, forced into center by the team's offensive struggles -- convened. Neither made it within a yard of the ball before it plopped down on the outfield grass, paving Lo Duca's route to second with a double.
"Maybe it could have been caught," Bay said. "[Nady] isn't a prototypical center fielder, and I don't know if maybe it died enough where I could have gotten there. But it fell in, and it was kind of the catalyst for that inning."
And what an inning it was. The next batter, Shawn Green, singled home Lo Duca to give the Mets a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Then came a hot shot off the bat of Lastings Milledge, which reached third baseman Matt Kata in an instant and scooted under his glove even quicker.
Both plays were ruled hits -- and rightfully so, given their velocity -- pasting six runs and 10 hits on Snell's final line. Yet the big blow came one batter after Kata's gaffe, when Mets starter John Maine launched the first home run of his career over the left-field fence.
That created a four-run hole, and four runs proved to be more than enough.
"The way things have been going for us offensively," Tracy said, "obviously, that's a sizable number."
There were bright spots, however, two of which shined brighter than the rest. Bay, who had poked just one extra-base hit in the entire month of July, drilled two homers to account for three quarters of Pittsburgh's offense.
The second of those -- an opposite-field shot in the ninth that pulled the Pirates back within four -- salvaged a bit of success. Bay is now batting .353 over the past week, compared to .252 for the season.
"To see him go the other way and hit the ball out of the ballpark, we haven't seen that in quite a while," Tracy said. "So there's obviously something that he felt tonight that he's been looking for."
Yet the rest of the Pirates are still left looking -- up, that is, at the rest of the National League. Only the Reds remain worse after this latest Pittsburgh slide, and only the Reds are sparing the Pirates from the cellar of the Central.
A closer look at the standings reveals the problem. The Pirates actually rank third in the division in pitching, but last by no small margin in hitting. So when the pitching doesn't perform -- as it didn't on Tuesday -- the hitting isn't always capable of picking up that slack.
"We have absolutely no room for error," Tracy said. "And if any occurs, or the other club puts up a decent number on us in a given inning, it makes it very difficult on us."
"If numbers like that go up against us, the task for us offensively becomes that much more daunting."
And a loss, it seems, that much more certain.
Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less