By The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH (AP) — One by one, a train of more than two dozen faces emerged from a players-only dining room and into the open expanse of the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse about 20 minutes after the team’s ninth consecutive loss.
No one was talking, but the looks on their faces said it all.
Kyle Blanks hit a grand slam and drove in five runs and the San Diego Padres again beat free-falling Pittsburgh, 13-2 on Saturday.
“Losing nine is no fun for anybody,” starter Paul Maholm said. “But nobody’s holding a pity party for us. I’m sure there’s a lot of people that are having fun with the fact we’re losing, but we’re just going to get over it and come back tomorrow and expect to win.”
Last in the National League in runs and homers, San Diego set a club record for runs in consecutive games with 28 — they won 15-5 Friday — according to information provided by the Pirates from the Elias Sports Bureau. The Padres hit a grand slam in consecutive games for the first time in 20 years.
Fans at PNC Park booed as the game got out of hand, leaving Pittsburgh 0-6 on its homestand. Blanks’ slam off Chris Resop in the seventh inning made it 11-1.
The Pirates were in first place on July 26, but have dropped 11 of 12 while plummeting out of the NL Central lead. Pittsburgh fell nine games behind division-leading Milwaukee, prompting a players-only team meeting after the game.
“We’ve got to get back to the attitude we had at the beginning of the season,” outfielder Garrett Jones said. “Get our mindset back to where it was. Get that swagger —that was the word we were using — and that attitude of ‘We’re gonna win every game.'”
Saddled with a major North American professional sports record 18 consecutive losing years, the Pirates were as many as seven games over .500 in July. But the team’s sudden slump has been just as stunning as its ascension to respectability after losing 105 games in 2010.
“They’re the same guys who were lighting some things up and people were cheering for and writing good stories about,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Right now, we’re battling all over the place. It seems real hard for somebody different every night where there’s some adversity that comes into play, so we’re all in it together. We’ve got to keep fighting for one another and keep fighting through it.”
The last-place Padres have pounded Pirates pitching for five home runs in winning the first two games of the series and have won three in a row overall.
The Padres had not hit a grand slam this season until Chase Headley did it Friday night. After hitting his first homer the day before, Blanks’ shot Saturday marked the first time San Diego had hit slams on consecutive days since Aug. 13-14, 1991, when Fred McGriff had both. Cleveland was the most recent team to do it, Sept. 17-18 of last season.
“We talk about contagious, and you see that happening a little bit the last couple of nights,” San Diego manager Bud Black said. “There’s a feeling amongst the lineup that they are going to give a good at bat and the result is going to be there.”
Rookie Cory Luebke (4-6) struck out a career-high nine and allowed one run over seven innings. He also had two hits and scored a run to help the Padres win their eighth straight game in Pittsburgh.
Orlando Hudson had three hits and scored the game’s first run on Blanks’ triple in the second. Rob Johnson had three RBIs for San Diego, which had scored a total of 28 runs over its eight previous games before this series.
Luebke came in having lost his previous three starts. He allowed five hits and no walks.
“We got ahead tonight,” Luebke said, “and with me and (Johnson) on the same page all night, when you get that kind of flow with your catcher, it just makes things easier for everybody.”
Maholm (6-12) gave up a season-high seven earned runs and tied a season high for hits allowed with 10. Pittsburgh has lost each of his five starts since the All-Star break.
Jones had a solo home run for the Pirates in the eighth, his 13th and third of the homestand.
“Obviously, we’re not playing well,” Maholm said. “Obviously, we’ve lost some games, and I think everybody on the field was pressing.
“I’ve gone through a few of these losing streaks like this, and whenever it’s going bad, it’s going bad,” he said.