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Pirate rally in 9th falls short
June 24, 2009

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PITTSBURGH - Adam LaRoche started a ninth-inning rally with a bang and ended it with a whimper Tuesday night.

However, the Pirates first baseman preferred to look on the bright side even though his struggling team lost another game. Pittsburgh scored four runs in the ninth, but lost 5-4 to the equally struggling Cleveland Indians in an interleague showdown of last-place teams that opened a three-game series at PNC Park.

"We were dead in the water and came back and almost had a heckuva win," LaRoche said. "I think that's a good sign for us. Too many times lately we've been held to four or five hits. For us to rally like was a good sign, even if we did lose the game. You never feel good when you lose but we should at least feel encouraged."

The Pirates trailed 5-0 going into the ninth after rookie left-hander David Huff (3-2) blanked them on four hits for eight innings. However, the Indians' bullpen, which has blown 13 of 26 save opportunities this season, nearly had another major meltdown.

LaRoche led off the ninth with a home run to right-center off Matt Herges that bounced into the Allegheny River.

Robinzon Diaz singled, moved to second on Andy LaRoche's ground out and scored on pinch hitter Brandon Moss' double that chased Herges and brought on Kerry Wood. Jack Wilson doubled home Moss to make it 5-3 and, one out later, Andrew McCutchen hit an RBI single into center field to draw the Pirates within a run.

Wood then walked Nyjer Morgan and Freddy Sanchez to load the bases before getting Adam LaRoche to pop out to right field on a full count to end it and earn his ninth save.

Thus, the Pirates' losing streak reached five games as they dropped a season-worst eight games under .500 at 31-39. The Indians snapped a six-game losing streak.

"I've got to give Kerry a lot of credit there," LaRoche said. "He only gave me one pitch to hit and that was a first-pitch curveball and I was taking all the way after he had walked two guys in a row. After that, he made a lot of good pitches. It was impressive that he was able to hold it together with the way he had been struggling in that inning."

Wood, who blew back-to-back saves to the Cubs in Chicago last weekend, said he decided to relax once the Pirates loaded the bases.

"The team hasn't been doing well and I haven't been doing well. I just kind of figured that whatever happened was going to happen," Wood said. "If I blew the save, it would be just another bad outing on top of a lot of them recently. If I got the out, then it would finally be a "W" for us. I pitched like I had nothing to lose."

Ian Snell (2-8) has been doing a lot of losing when he pitches for the Pirates this season. He took the loss in this one as he lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up four runs and four hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

Snell seemed to be making progress by turning in quality starts in his previous three outings. However, he needed 70 pitches to get eight outs Tuesday.

"We have a game plan for every game and I didn't execute the pitches that would have allowed me to follow that game plan," Snell said. "I'm not making any excuses. I don't want to give any reason for (the media) to say I'm making excuses or the bloggers to say I'm making excuses. I didn't execute the game plan and that's why I lost."

Snell dropped into a six-way tie for the National League lead in losses.

When Pirates manager John Russell was asked if he was surprised that someone with Snell's talent ability could be 2-8, he answered, "He really hasn't thrown the ball well all year."

The Indians chased Snell during a four-run third inning that included a two-run triple by Grady Sizemore that was misplayed by right fielder Steve Pearce and a two-run single by Johnny Peralta, who then made it 5-0 in the sixth with a leadoff homer off Evan Meek.

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