One of the few positive developments for the Pittsburgh Pirates during their 17th consecutive losing season has been the development of Ross Ohlendorf(notes), who’s trying to become the team’s first starter in five years to have an ERA under 3.00 after the All-Star break.
He may only have one game left to get there.
Ohlendorf’s 29th start could also be his last as the Pirates contemplate shutting him down, and he’ll face baseball’s lowest-scoring offense Saturday afternoon as Pittsburgh hosts the San Diego Padres.
Ohlendorf (11-10, 4.03 ERA) was 7-7 with a 4.64 ERA in the season’s first half, showing few signs that he was ready to be a front-line starter in his first full season with the Pirates (56-89).
Since the All-Star break, however, Ohlendorf has looked like a potential fixture in Pittsburgh’s rotation for years to come. The right-hander is 4-3 with a 3.00 ERA, making him a threat to be the first Pirate starter to have a sub-3.00 ERA in the second half since Oliver Perez(notes) posted a 2.74 ERA after the 2004 Midsummer Classic.
Ohlendorf may have to come up with a strong effort against the Padres (66-82) to make that happen. Though manager John Russell won’t commit to Saturday’s start being his last, Ohlendorf’s 169 2-3 innings are well above his professional baseball high of 131 2-3.
“This guy has come so far this year and done such great things that we don’t want to, as an organization, jeopardize him for the future,” Russell told the Pirates’ official Web site. “He’s got a great chance to be a very solid starter for us for a lot of years to come. We get him through this year and next year basically we can take the reins off.”
Ohlendorf allowed four runs over 6 1-3 innings last Saturday in a 4-2 loss at Houston, but he’s been at his best at home. He’s 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA in nine starts at PNC Park since June 14.
It was the 29th time the Padres, who average a major league-worst 3.86 runs, had been held to one run or fewer.
“We just couldn’t get hits tonight when we had opportunities with guys on base, and their guy got better as the game went on,” San Diego manager Bud Black said. “We just couldn’t get anything going.”
Clayton Richard(notes) (4-2, 5.40), one of four pitchers the Padres acquired in the deal that sent Peavy to the Chicago White Sox on July 31, gets the ball for Black’s club looking to turn around his road woes.
Richard is 1-2 with a 10.69 ERA in four road starts since the trade, lasting an average of four innings.
He gave up three runs and three hits over five innings in his latest home start, leaving without a decision Sunday as the Padres beat Colorado 7-3. He struck out eight, though, including the last five batters he faced.
Richard also fanned eight against the Pirates in a May 23 start with the White Sox, allowing four runs over six innings in a 4-0 win.