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Slumping Pirates drop third straight

Slumping Pirates drop third straight

NEW YORK -- Jim Tracy made sure to add insult to injury.

And there certainly was plenty of injury.

There was the literal -- a stiff left shoulder that forced Tom Gorzelanny out of the game just one out into the third. And there was the figurative -- the deleterious effects on the psyches of everyone, amidst a skid that's seen the Pirates win just one game since the All-Star break.

So when Tracy stormed out of the Pirates dugout to argue a call in the third, and promptly fumed back in after stamping his ticket to watch the last six innings on television, the bad vibes did little to sink an already downtrodden team.

After all, they were already sunk.

Tracy's ejection was the highlight of a 6-3 loss to the Mets all but devoid of highlights on the field that -- combined with Cincinnati's win over Milwaukee -- dropped the Pirates into the cellar of the NL Central. Pittsburgh has now lost three straight, and 10 of its last 11.

"We'll turn this around," said reliever Tony Armas. "It's not going to be the whole second half that we're going to be in this situation."

Tracy's beef came on the first batter Armas faced, precisely one pitch after Gorzelanny hit the showers. Shawn Green welcomed the reliever with a sinking liner to left, on which Jason Bay appeared to make a shoestring catch. Bay then fired to second for what seemed to be an inning-ending double play, before realizing that third-base umpire Larry Vanover had ruled it no catch, and the out at second a simple forceout.

After the confusion on the field had settled -- and there was plenty, from all parties involved -- Tracy stormed out of the dugout only to storm right back in, the victim of Vanover's quick trigger finger. And though he was later vindicated by video replays that clearly showed Bay's glove underneath the ball, that proved to be little comfort.

"He clearly caught it," was all Tracy could utter after the game. "The glove was underneath the ball. The ball was in his glove. He caught the ball."

He may have caught the ball, but the Pirates certainly dropped it. For the second straight night the team found itself staring down a large deficit, and for the second straight night the offense couldn't come close to closing the gap.

The frustration started early, when Mets starter Tom Glavine walked the bases loaded with one out in the first inning. But one sharp pitch later and Xavier Nady had grounded into a double play, easing Glavine away from the only stress he would face for some time.

Not until the fifth would the Pirates threaten again, scoring three runs on an Adam LaRoche groundout and Bay's third homer in two games. But one isolated burst of offense was not nearly enough.

"We put a little bit of heat on him there and he made a good pitch to [Nady]," LaRoche said. "He's not one to panic out there."

The only panic came from the Pirates, who watched as Gorzelanny slogged his way through 2 1/3 ineffective innings before his stiff left shoulder forced him to call it a night. The lefty allowed seven hits and three walks, blaming that stiffness for the skittish control that allowed the Mets to take an early lead.

All three of the batters Gorzelanny walked scored, while four of the seven hits went for extra bases. The outing -- he pitched to six batters in the third but recorded just one out -- marked the shortest start of his young career, and just the second time he's ever been unable to make it out of the third.

"The big thing was I wasn't being effective," Gorzelanny said. "I didn't know where I was throwing the ball, I didn't know if it would get there, I wasn't placing it where I wanted to. Obviously, you saw that by the way they hit the ball, and I didn't want to hurt the team that much more."

It's now been two straight subpar pitching performances from a team that has needed its starting pitching to thrive. Before the trip to Shea, the rotation had done just that, stringing together a 2.08 ERA in three prior games. But Ian Snell lasted just four innings on Tuesday, and the next night, Gorzelanny lasted even fewer.

"These last two days you never want to see your top two pitchers struggle, especially when we're obviously pretty desperate for wins right now," LaRoche said. "You definitely don't want to see them get hurt."

Now, it's more than stiff arms and cut hands that are suffering. It's the collective psyche of a team that hasn't known winning in weeks, and that's suddenly looking up at every team in the league.

And frankly, that's hurt enough for all 25 Pirates to share.

Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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