I went down to PETCO tonight to see James McDonald pitch and, as I'm sure was perfectly clear to those of you watching tonight at home, he wasn't especially sharp. His breaking pitch still looked pretty good (though he had some trouble controlling it), but his velocity appeared to be down a bit from his first start and I didn't see as many unhittable changeups (which maybe had something to do with the fastball velocity). He still piled up strikeouts, which is great, but he needed about eighty million pitches to get through the first inning, putting the Pirates in a tough situation later on.
Like a lot of pitchers, McDonald loses velocity over the course of an outing. If his fastball velocity drops from 96-97 to 92-93, like it did in his first start, that might not be such a big deal. But PETCO's gun tonight had his velocity dropping from 95 to 91. Maybe some of that is just a difference in radar guns. But I was still surprised that John Russell let McDonald pitch so long. True, McDonald hadn't gotten through five innings yet, but he already looked gassed to me by the time the fifth rolled around, and he ended up throwing 108 pitches and having all kinds of problems in his last frame.
UPDATE: It looks like this was just a difference in the radar guns. Brooks Baseball shows that McDonald's fastball velocity was pretty much identical to what it was in his first start. His pattern of losing velocity as the game goes on, however, is present in both starts.
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Of course, McDonald got no help from Ryan Doumit, who, while playing outfield for some reason, looked like a deer in headlights while letting a ball fall in front of him with two outs. At the time, it looked to me like a conservative play by a guy who doesn't really know what he's doing, which kind of makes sense if you're Ryan Doumit and you know you can't really play outfield. It would indeed have been worse if he tried to dive for it and missed. But I think most good outfielders would have gotten to that ball. That turned out to be pretty important, since a catch would have ended the inning and the Padres ended up scoring three runs.
After that, the parade of bad relievers began - first Sean Gallagher, then Chan Ho Park. By the end of the sixth, I was mad at myself for even deciding to come to the game, as Kevin Correia was pitching a one-hitter. The Pirates did manage to string some singles together in the seventh inning, and it even looked possible that they'd come back, but they didn't. Oh well.