Here's a good rule of thumb: if your starter walks seven batters, you're probably going to lose. We can sit here and debate where or not James McDonald should've been allowed to walk seven batters -- it was apparent in the third inning that he had nothing, he was lucky to get through four with only three Astro runs on the board, and for some reason Clint Hurdle let him drag through the fifth. It ultimately didn't matter since Kevin Correia was just as bad in long relief, but McDonald was really, really hard to watch. He's pitching poor enough right now that the Pirates should probably think long and hard about what to do with his next start, since it'll be coming in Cincinnati.
Really, that's all there was to this one. The Pirates' pitching got pounded and they never really got enough offense going to make much of a difference. It was nice to see Starling Marte get a couple of hits after struggling in the middle of the series, it's always nice to see Garrett Jones stay hot, but the pitching never really gave them a chance.
The Pirates are in a weird place right now. They didn't play well in Houston at all, despite winning three of four. Couple that with last week's Cubs' series, and the Pirates have played really poorly over the course of the last week, despite going 4-3. All things considered, that's maybe a good result for a bad week, except that the Reds have now won ten in a row. When you're in second and they're in first doing that, three losses to the Astros and Cubs feels suddenly significant.
Let's state this bluntly: if the Pirates don't start playing better ball, they're going nowhere. Even if they somehow stumble into the playoffs with this type of play, they'd get crushed once they get there.
They just need to play better ball. No idea why this team can play so poorly in April and July yet be so unstoppable in June.
The Pirates were red hot going into the All Star break and have seemed sluggish coming out. Luckily they are in a soft spot of the schedule so they are not paying as big a price. Right now I am in "take the win and move on" mode, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried.