PITTSBURGH (AP) - Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is convinced his surprising team can compete on a championship level on a given day.
Just not Sunday.
The Pirates tied a season high with four errors and committed a couple of other unfortunate gaffes in a 4-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox to end a four-game winning streak.
``If this was a neighborhood golf match, we probably could have used about six mulligans today,' Hurdle said.
Tim Wood (0-2) took the loss in relief as Pittsburgh's normally reliable bullpen showed signs of stress following a busy week.
The Pirates came in looking for an unlikely sweep over one of baseball's top teams. They posted a pair of electric victories on Friday and Saturday, but couldn't make it three straight at packed PNC Park, which set an attendance record for the second game in a row.
Pittsburgh managed just five hits, none over the final four innings as Boston starter Andrew Miller (1-0) won his first game for the Red Sox.
Still, Hurdle remained upbeat. His team has now won home series against the Red Sox, the Philadelphia Phillies and the NL West-contending Arizona Diamondbacks. Though the Pirates missed a chance to move three games above .500 this late in the season for the first time since 1999, Hurdle praised his team's progress.
``I think this was a great weekend for experience for us,' he said.
Pittsburgh starter James McDonald pitched effectively after moving up a spot in the rotation so the Pirates could give Charlie Morton's tired right arm a breather.
McDonald held the Red Sox to five hits over six innings, giving up two unearned runs. The Red Sox scored in the fourth on center fielder Andrew McCutchen's error, with his throw bouncing off third baseman Chase d'Arnaud's glove into the stands.
McDonald had only himself to blame for Boston's second run. He threw wide of second base trying to force out Kevin Youkilis on a bunt by Boston's Darnell McDonald - the McDonalds are cousins. The ball rolled into center as Youkilis raced to third. He later scored on a sacrifice fly by Josh Reddick.
``For the most part I feel like I was aggressive at pounding the strike zone,' McDonald said. ``There were times I got real lackadaisical to guys and I had to get myself back into aggressive mode. But I felt like it was better.'
Boston's defense wasn't much better but the Pirates couldn't take advantage. They ran themselves out of a potential big inning in the fifth when Garrett Jones overran third base on an RBI single by McCutchen and Miller escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam by allowing just one run.
``I think that probably would be one of the mulligans we'd like a do-over on,' Hurdle said.
Adrian Gonzalez had two hits for Boston and raised his batting average to .361, tops in the majors. Yet the Red Sox won by doing the little things, scoring their four runs on a Pittsburgh error, a pair of sacrifice flies and an RBI groundout.
Both teams had starting outfielders leave in the early innings. Pittsburgh left fielder Jose Tabata was taken off the field on a stretcher after injuring his left quadriceps beating out an infield single in the first. Boston right fielder J.D. Drew exited in the second because of a bruise to his left eye sustained during batting practice.
Tabata, who was walking around in the clubhouse after the game, will be evaluated on Monday. He appears doubtful to play on Tuesday when Pittsburgh begins a three-game series in Toronto.
Regardless, the weekend has given the team another confidence boost as the season nears the midway point.
``It shows what kind of team we got,' McDonald said. ``We have lot of competitors and I feel like the baseball world knows the Pirates can play with anybody.'
NOTES: Boston's Dustin Pedroia extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the first. ... Pittsburgh 3B Pedro Alvarez is expected to get back on the field this week in Florida for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a quadriceps injury last month.
The Associated Press News Service
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