It was the fifth inning when it finally looked like James McDonald was going to throw a good start out there. He's been unimaginably awful since the All-Star break and it has hurt the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has lost games to bad teams. The San Diego Padres are another bad team and he had them dead in the water. But then the fifth inning happened.
The game didn't get off to a good start for McDonald. Alexi Amarista hit a home run over the Clemente Wall on the second pitch of the game. But McDonald looked to settle in after that. He only allowed one more hit before the fourth inning and against the light hitting Padres, it looked like he was getting back on track. He fooled all of us.
What made his demise in this game even worse is that his offense gave him a six run lead which involved McDonald helping his own cause by walking twice. Starling Marte hit a single in the second inning to score Clint Barmes and tie the game. The Pirates took the lead in the third inning off of a monster solo home run by Garrett Jones in the third inning.
The fourth inning appeared as if it would be all the Pirates needed after they broke the game open. After a Barmes single and another walk by McDonald, Travis Snider launched his first home run as a Pirate. Then they kept going. Andrew McCutchen walked and Jones singled and advanced to second on a groundout. That set the stage for Pedro Alvarez to hit a two out single to put the Pirates up 7-1 and all seemed right with the world.
McDonald just absolutely fell apart in the fifth inning. He walked Cameron Maybin and gave up a single to Jeff Baker before Jesus Guzman was called upon to pinch hit for the pitcher's spot. Guzman delivered a two run double. Amarista and Everth Cabrera hit back to back singles after that, the first of which put another run on the board. McDonald was obviously done but Clint Hurdle attempted to force him through five innings to get the win and he paid for it. Chase Headley hit a three run home run to tie the game and end McDonald'd night.
The scoring stopped until the Pirates came to bat in the sixth inning. Jones walked and Alvarez hit a two out single to put runners at the corners for Rod Barajas. Barajas has been struggling mightily lately and has seen his average dip below the Mendoza line, however, he delivered in this situation with a soft line drive into center field to put the Pirates back on top.
It wasn't the eighth inning like on Tuesday night, but there was another late inning meltdown by the bullpen. This time it was Tony Watson who would have a rough outing. He came on for Chris Resop with one out in the seventh with some lefties due up in the lineup. Watson got Amarista but issues a two out walk to Cabrera which resulted in the death blow. Headley hit his second home run of the game to give the Padres their first lead since the first inning and it would be all that the Padres would need.
There is no question that this is the worst loss of the season. But it still only counts as one loss in the standings. The important part now is to not let it become a demoralizing thing that turns into the Jerry Meals game from last year. They can't let this become the turning point in their season. There is one big reason why that won't happen, too. It's because their stopper, A.J. Burnett, will once again be on the mound to stop the bleeding on Saturday.