Friday’s opener of this three-game set saw the Phillies suffer their most lopsided loss in nearly four months, 11-2 to a Pirates team that has the NL’s second-worst record. Starter Robinson Tejeda failed to get through four innings and Philadelphia’s lineup was held to four hits.
It was the Phillies’ biggest margin of defeat since an 11-1 loss at Atlanta on April 23, and the most runs they’ve allowed since falling 12-8 to Boston on June 26.
Philadelphia had won seven of 10 games to grab sole possession of the wild-card lead. Friday’s loss dropped the Phillies a half-game behind the Houston Astros and back into a tie with Florida.
“I said 10 days ago and still feel the same way, we’ll have something to say in this wild-card race,” Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said.
McClendon now hopes to get a third consecutive dominant performance from his starting pitcher. Rookie Zach Duke threw seven innings of two-hit ball in Thursday’s 5-0 win over the New York Mets, and Kip Wells allowed three hits and struck out seven in seven innings Friday.
The Pirates turn to Dave Williams, who leads the starting staff with a 3.88 ERA and is coming off the best outing of his career.
For the first time in 55 major league starts, Williams lasted longer than seven innings as he pitched a five-hitter in Sunday’s 8-0 win at Houston. He walked one and struck out seven to win his second straight start.
Friday’s victory moved the Pirates above .500 in August (9-8).
“Pittsburgh is a dangerous team,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “They’re loose and they’re having fun.”
A key to the Pirates’ solid play this month has been rookie first baseman Brad Eldred, who homered for the fourth time in six games Friday. The midseason call-up has five home runs and 15 RBIs in 13 games this month.