In August, the Pittsburgh Pirates scored fewer runs than any team in the NL, found out their No. 1 draft pick was disputing the terms of his agreement to sign a contract and, most recently, had their scorekeeper accused of exercising poor judgment to keep them from being no-hit.
To top that off, they ended their worst month in 10 years on a 10-game losing streak.
The Pirates will hope for a better start to September on Tuesday when they begin a road series with the Cincinnati Reds, who are coming off a three-game sweep.
Pittsburgh (57-79) came into August eight games below .500 but scoring 4.94 runs per game, the third-best average in the NL.
Then, with the trades of outfielders Xavier Nady and Jason Bay shortly before the end of July, the Pirates nearly stopped producing altogether. Pittsburgh scored 82 runs in 28 games in August and went 7-21, the franchise’s worst record in a month since going 5-22 in September 1998.
“We don’t tolerate losing. It’s not OK,” general manager Neil Huntington said. “We had a remarkably tough schedule in August, but the bottom line is we have not won as much as we have needed to.”
Huntington is in his first year as Pittsburgh’s GM, and a major part of the team’s rebuilding process was tied to Pedro Alvarez, the No. 2 overall selection in June’s amateur draft. But just 12 days after Alvarez agreed to a deal that included a $6 million signing bonus, agent Scott Boras claimed the contract was agreed to minutes after the Aug. 15 deadline.
The issue is to be settled by an arbitrator next week.
The month ended with the club’s 10th consecutive loss - its worst stretch since losing 13 straight in June 2006 - and a touch of controversy. Milwaukee’s CC Sabathia allowed the Pirates only one hit on Sunday in a 7-0 win, but that hit - an Andy LaRoche check-swing chopper that Sabathia fielded and dropped - was thought by many to be an error.
Brewers manager Ned Yost called official scorer Bob Webb’s decision “a joke.”
LaRoche, who’s hitting just .135 since coming over from Los Angeles in the Bay trade, was simply glad to improve his average.
“From a selfish standpoint I’d like it to be a hit, but you could make a case either way,” LaRoche said. “But I’m hitting .160 - I need every hit I can get.”
The Reds (61-76) had no trouble hitting the ball over the weekend against San Francisco. Cincinnati was coming off a 3-6 road trip where it scored 26 runs, but topped that total in three games versus the Giants.
Manager Dusty Baker’s team put up 27 runs in the series, completing the sweep on Sunday with a 9-3 win.
“Joey Votto’s as hot as anybody in baseball,” Baker told the Reds’ official Web site.
Aaron Harang (4-14, 5.27 ERA) will try to keep the Pirates’ bats silent on Monday. He’s 0-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two starts against Pittsburgh this year, and is coming off a loss in Houston on Thursday. Harang allowed three runs in seven innings, striking out nine, but fell 3-2.
He’ll be opposed by Ian Snell (5-10, 5.77), who didn’t get a decision despite struggling in his last start. Snell gave up five runs in four innings to the Cubs on Tuesday in Pittsburgh’s 14-9 loss.
Snell is 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA in three starts against the Reds in 2008.