PHOENIX (AP) - Down in a big early hole, Pittsburgh fought back, throwing almost the entire roster at the Arizona Diamondbacks.
But, just like they have for most of a miserable second half of the season, the Pirates came up just short.
Down seven runs after three innings, the Pirates chipped away at Arizona's lead before falling short in an 8-5 loss to the NL West-leading Diamondbacks on Wednesday.
``The attitude and the effort has been there all year,' Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. ``They are playing the game to win, whether it is September 21 all April 21 that hasn't changed. The execution has been problematic the last 50 games.'
Pittsburgh's problems started right away.
Starter Russ Ohlendorf (1-3) was shaky almost from the first pitch, giving up three runs in the first inning before being chased after three straight singles and a walk in the third. He gave up seven runs on seven hits.
With Hurdle trying 15 different position players and six pitchers, Pittsburgh took small pieces of Arizona's lead in the later innings.
Derrick Lee homered and had two RBIs, Ryan Ludwick had a solo shot and the Pirates scored another run in the seventh on a wild pitch by Bryan Shaw. Jason Jaramillo had a run-scoring double in the eighth off Brad Ziegler, but Joe Patterson got Ryan Doumit to ground out with two on to end the threat.
``We battled back and were able to get the tying run at the plate,' Hurdle said.
It just wasn't enough to stop the aggressive Diamondbacks, who are ready to snatch the NL West crown.
A day after stranding 11 runners in a loss to Pittsburgh, the Diamondbacks put pressure on the Pirates from the start, setting a team record with four stolen bases in the three-run first inning.
Miguel Montero hit a homer for the first of his three hits in the inning and Arizona tacked on five more runs in the third with two-run hits by Aaron Hill and Ryan Roberts to finish with 11 hits.
That was more than enough run support for Wade Miley (4-2) and J.J. Putz closed it out with a flourish, striking out the side in the ninth for his 22nd straight save and 43rd overall.
Now, with 90 wins after a pair of 90-loss seasons, Arizona is on the brink of closing out the Giants, who played the Dodgers later Wednesday. The Diamondbacks get a day off on Thursday before opening a three-game series at home against San Francisco on Friday.
``We can't celebrate until happens,' said Chris Young, who had two hits and drove in a run in a five-run third inning. ``I'm sure a few guys will be watching the Giants tonight and tomorrow, but if we can come into the Giants' series ready and playing good baseball, we should be able to do this.'
Arizona lost to Pittsburgh 5-3 Tuesday night, thanks to ineffective hitting with runners on and several defensive gems by the Pirates, but still moved closer to its first division title since 2007 with San Francisco's loss to the Dodgers.
The Diamondbacks went right at the Pirates in the series finale, pulling off two double steals in the opening inning. Justin Upton had a sacrifice fly to drive in one run and Montero added two more with his 18th homer to right.
Arizona piled it on the third, chasing Ohlendorf after three straight singles - Young's drove a run - and a walk. Roberts followed with a two-run double to the corner in left off Jared Hughes, who then issued a four-pitch walk to Miley, a .083 hitter. Hill made it 8-1 with a two-run single to left after fighting off several good pitches.
Ohlendorf allowed seven runs on seven hits in two-plus innings.
``I felt like the ball was coming out of my hand real good and I made good pitches, and they took good swings,' said Ohlendorf said. ``I had a really good approach and I didn't make enough good pitches.'
Miley wasn't particularly sharp, but plenty good enough with the support his teammates provided.
The left-hander worked through plenty of traffic, giving up Ludwick's solo homer in the second inning and an RBI single to Lee in the fourth. Miley was lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth inning after allowing two runs on five hits.
The Diamondbacks had some nice defensive plays to help the effort, including Hill's shovel throw from second to get Alex Presley in the third inning and first baseman Lyle Overbay's over-the-rail grab on Matt Pagnozzi's foul pop in the sixth.
``We've just got keep pushing, keep winning ballgames and seal the deal,' Miley said.
Another game or two like this and they will.
NOTES: Montero has an 11-game hitting streak at home. ... Arizona gets Thursday off before starting its series against the Giants. Rookie RHP Josh Collmenter will start for the Diamondbacks after allowing three runs in seven innings of a 3-1 loss to San Diego his last outing. ... Pittsburgh heads home to play Cincinnati with RHP Edinson Volquez facing Reds LHP Jeff Locke. Volquez will be making his third start in the majors after losing his first two outings with a 6.75 ERA.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved