- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 9, 2011

PITTSBURGH (AP) - As the botched plays and bad losses and loud boos at PNC Park mounted in recent days, Clint Hurdle and the Pittsburgh Pirates stood firm in reciting a familiar refrain.

Over the course of a 162-game season, they rationalized, every club eventually endures a slump, a stretch of poor play, a losing streak.

“We know there’s no reason to panic,” outfielder Garrett Jones said, “because even the best teams have rough patches like this.”

But not one this costly this quickly in major league history.

Leading the NL Central on July 25, the Pirates lost the next day when plate umpire Jerry Meals admittedly made the wrong call in the 19th inning at Atlanta. And by Sunday night, Pittsburgh had lost 10 in a row and suddenly found itself trailing by 10 games.

Never before had a first-place team plunged 10 games back in a 13-day span, STATS LLC said.

Coming off the worst homestand in their 125-year existence, the Pirates ended their skid Monday night with a 5-0 win over the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

“To go from in the hunt to out of the hunt in 10 games like this, it’s bad,” infielder Brandon Wood said after Sunday’s 7-3 loss to San Diego, finishing an 0-7 week at home.

“It’s amazing how quick things can change. But on the other hand, they can change that quick in the other direction as well,” he said.

Look at the Red Sox, the Pirates say, who started 0-6 and now have the best record in the American League. Or the Brewers, who have gone on separate 0-7 and 1-7 runs but still lead the NL Central.

They had better start heading the other direction soon if the Pirates are to salvage a season that so surprisingly was filled with such promise before the bottom fell out.

A year after losing 105 games for their North American major professional sports record 18th consecutive losing season, these Pirates peaked at 51-44 and were five games over .500 in July for the first time since 1992 when the trouble began with that 4-3 loss to the Braves.

Pittsburgh’s players had woke up that morning knowing they were on a team tied for first place, poised to be buyers at the trading deadline for the first time in 14 years and having had captivated a long-dormant fan base back home.

Less than two weeks later, having acquired Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick to help for a possible playoff push, the Pirates were 54-59 and seemingly spiraling toward yet another sub-.500 campaign. They’d been outscored 82-37 during the 10-game skid and dropped 12 of 13 since peaking.

An embarrassing sweep at the hands of the last-place Padres _ the lowest-scoring team in the NL, they put a team-record 35 runs in a three-game series _ followed sweeps at Philadelphia and at home against the Chicago Cubs.

Story Continues →