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James McDonald Comes Apart In Alarming 9-5 Pirates Loss

James McDonald had a terrible outing, walking seven batters and allowing five runs over five innings, and the Pirates lost 9-5 to the Astros Sunday.

I'm not sure how McDonald lasted even five innings. He had five walks through three innings, then gave up a walk in the fourth, followed by a Jordan Schafer homer. Jose Altuve doubled after that. At that point, I think you've got to take McDonald out, but Clint Hurdle left him in there to bat the next inning, even though there was a man on and the Pirates were only down 3-2.

What happened after McDonald went back out to pitch was predictable. He gave up three straight hits to start the fifth as the Astros scored two more.

Just about any time you take three of four in a series, it's a good thing, but this four-game stretch was alarming. The Pirates won three games not really because they played well, but because the Astros are a disaster. Then their ace pitched the fourth game and walked seven batters, meaning that he's now walked 19 batters in his last four starts.

The Pirates have a day off on Thursday after a three-game set against the Cubs; it will be interesting to see how they handle their rotation. Erik Bedard, A.J. Burnett and Jeff Karstens are scheduled to pitch those three games. One possibility might be to go with Wandy Rodriguez on Friday, after the day off, and skip right back to Bedard on Saturday, giving McDonald a few extra days of rest. Of course, it was Bedard himself who was getting extra rest just a couple weeks ago. In any case, the Rodriguez trade now looks like a helpful one not just because he's better than Kevin Correia, but because Rodriguez is a reliable arm, and the Pirates seem to be short on those right now.

Speaking of Correia, there might be a temptation to just give him a start in place of McDonald, but Correia pitched today too and allowed four runs while pitching the sixth and seventh, with three of those coming on a bases-loaded double Marwin Gonzalez on an I-don't-even-know-what-that-pitch-was-supposed-to-accomplish. So ... yeah.

The Pirates found themselves down 9-3 after seven, but tried to make a game of it in the ninth against Houston's bullpen. Josh Harrison, Starling Marte and Alex Presley hit consecutive singles, with Marte coming home on a wild pitch by Chuckie Fick with Presley at the plate. Neil Walker's fly ball brought home another run, but that was all, and the Bucs lost 9-5.