The Pittsburgh Pirates are well on their way to dropping 100 games in their 18th consecutive losing season, but they’re making a run at what would be a historic .500 record at PNC Park.
A fourth straight home win Saturday night would pull the majors’ worst team within four games of breaking even, but they’ll likely need a better effort from sputtering Paul Maholm(notes) to ensure a series win over the Washington Nationals.
Not much has gone right for Pittsburgh (45-89), which needs four wins in its final 14 road games to avoid matching the 1963 New York Mets for the fewest away from home in a 162-game season. The Pirates are 14-53 on the road.
At PNC Park, however, the Pirates have shown some positive signs. Cleanup hitter Garrett Jones(notes) emerged from a 7-for-50 slump with two hits and three RBIs in an 8-5 win over the Nationals on Friday, helping Pittsburgh improve to 31-36 at home.
“The most frustrating part when you’re slumping is that you know you’re not helping the team,” said Jones, a .229 hitter at PNC. “It feels really good to get a couple of big hits that helped result in a win that we needed.”
No NL team has finished .500 at home while losing 100 games.
The Pirates need to go 18-10 to avoid their first 100-loss season since 2001, and that’s especially unlikely if Maholm (7-13, 5.18 ERA) continues on his downward spiral. The left-hander had a 3.98 ERA on July 1 and was being sought by a few contenders near the trade deadline, but he’s gone 1-5 with an 8.67 ERA in his last seven starts.
Maholm gave up eight runs over 3 1-3 innings in a 14-2 loss to Chicago on Monday.
“Not being able to get ahead, not throwing my sinker if I can,” Maholm said when asked to pinpoint his struggles. “It goes back to failure to do that and establish down and away, not missing over the middle, and getting into bad counts. I know what it is, I need to fix it. It’s going to be fixed next time.”
Maholm is 0-3 with a 5.30 ERA in six starts versus the Nationals (57-78), who have hit nine homers in 37 1-3 innings against him.
Nationals left-hander John Lannan(notes) (6-6, 4.95) has been getting better while Maholm has gotten worse. He went 4-1 with a 3.25 ERA in August, holding St. Louis to a run over 7 2-3 innings of a 4-2 win Sunday.
“There’s still room for improvement,” Lannan said. “The last two years, I’ve been at the same point and now it’s time to move past that mentally and get better.”
Lannan’s numbers against Pittsburgh are nearly identical to Maholm’s against Washington. He is 0-3 with a 5.53 ERA in five outings.